Coal remains the centrepiece of India’s energy policy. India is the world’s third largest producer as well as consumer of coal, using the fossil fuel to generate nearly two-thirds of its electricity.
While the Narendra Modi regime is increasingly talking about renewable sources of energy – partly to meet the international obligations on carbon emission targets – it has set a target of doubling annual coal production by 2020.
There is, however, a dark side to the attempts being made to cast India’s growth story in black gold. Neither the Centre nor states are keen to take crores of people into confidence before digging up their land to extract coal. These are people who are at risk of losing their land, livelihoods and homes due to coal mining; around 90% of them are poor Adivasis, who can’t figure out whether to curse their destiny or the apathetic state.
Over 70% of India’s coal reserves are in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, which account for nearly 2.60 crores Adivasis, or 25% of the country’s tribal population. Vast numbers of these tribals are already under existential threat due to indiscriminate mining over the past six decades or so.
Coal India, the world’s largest coal production company, has devised an aggressive policy to reach its annual production target of a billion tonnes. Three of Coal India’s subsidiaries – South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL), Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL) and Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) – are rapidly expanding their mining areas in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. In the frenzy, the land acquisition laws and environmental guidelines are the first casualties.
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