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Lobbying intensifies against MMDR

Coal Ministry's objection to the MMDR Bill illustrates how lobbyists can turn the table on a seemingly necessary piece of legislation.

The curious turn of events saw the ministry, recently upgraded for the first time into a full cabinet status, objecting to the 26 per cent profit sharing clause in the amendment.

While it is not necessary that one ministry must fall in line with another ministry's bill there are certain proprieties members of the Union Cabinet should observe.
In the first place any bill which touches operations under another ministry is necessarily prepared after obtaining views from all. If Coal Ministry had any suggestion to make it will not be wrong to assume that Ministry made such suggestion at the time of preparation of the bill.

In other words any dissenting note sent now is an afterthought. More so, since there is very interesting similarities between the suggestion of Coal Ministry now and a note in circulation in the month of November-December 2010 by certain vested interests who had been opposing the profit sharing clause of MMDR bill from the very beginning.

Evidently some have been able to influence the Ministry in opposing a socially relevant and politically correct legislation proposed by the Government. Affirmative action for the sake of the downtrodden whose voice do not reach the rich and the influential is an essential part of democracy.

Failure to do so lead to unrest, desperate elements of the suppressed even taking up arms against the state. This has been seen in the sates of Orissa, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh where the Maobadi are up in arms against the state repression. While such armed belligerence should not be encouraged the fact remains that the root cause of such uprising needs to be addressed.

Clearly, development has not touched the lives of the natives in these resource rich regions. Unless the ‘resource curse' is addressed development does not mean much in India, the world's largest democracy. One sure way of solving the 'resource curse' is to make available the benefits to the people living in the regions hitherto untouched by development. The MMDR bill merely attempted to bring in a solution where problems are galore and the armed forces had been attempting to suppress the local disenchantment through use of force. By backtracking on the same and singing the tune the merchant miners are lobbying in favour, the government departments are acting against their democratic responsibility.

One can only hope that the leader of the cabinet, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, will chastise the recalcitrant ministries and reach a solution which the hapless people suffering from 'resource curse' are looking forward to.

The same Government had in the past taken note of the voices from Kalahandi and stopped a mining project in the land of the Dongria Kondhs.

The Government must not heed the lobbyists or any Ministry note influenced by the lobbyists. If certain clauses in MMDR bill seem to be harsh on companies having robust CSR initiatives for removing the resource curse. The bill should take such expenses as part of the compulsory profit sharing.

Value addition in the region should also receive recognition and therefore reprieve. However, the escape route suggested by the lobbyists in order to perpetuate their indecent profit, hopefully, will not form part of the Government's agenda.

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