CPI(M)-backed tribal organisations today termed as "anti-constitutional" the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Amendment Bill, 2015 and urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to give his assent to the legislation saying it will hit tribals and lead to their further displacement.
A delegation of Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM), led by former Rajya Sabha MP of CPI(M) Brinda Karat, today met Mukherjee and requested him not to approve the Bill, which has been cleared by both the Houses of Parliament.
"We requested the President to not give his assent to the Bill which is set to affect tribals badly," Karat told reporters after the meeting.
She alleged that the Bill was cleared violating the spirit of constitutional provisions and legal framework.
"The Select Committee of Rajya Sabha (which examined the Bill) did not consult representatives of tribals from the mineral rich districts which are directly affected by the amendments," Karat said, adding procedure followed by Centre in getting the Bill cleared also violated the federal structure as state governments were not consulted over the issue.
The members of delegation also brought to the notice of the President that Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) in Fifth Schedule States, which are mandated to be consulted on all major issues affecting tribal communities, too were not taken into confidence before the Bill was framed.
"The procedure was highly violative of Constitutional protection cover for tribal community," Karat said, adding the President was left "shocked" to know the issues raised during the meeting.
She further said the Mines and Minerals Bill also ignored provisions made in the Forest Rights Act, PESA Act and Wild Life Protection Act which mandate process for recognition of rights before any relocation, compensation packages for tribals with consent, protection of traditional rights amongst others.
The Bill concerned along with Land Acquisition Ordinance is set to give "double blow" to adivasis (tribals) leading to rise in their displacement, Karat claimed.
"According to the high-level committee report on tribal issues, tribals constitute 8.7 per cent of the country's population. But they form 40 per cent of all those displaced by government's development projects. If the Mines and Mineral Bill is approved, it will cause further displacement of tribals. The Land Acquisition Ordinance will only mean double blow to adivasis and farmers," she added.
Referring to the Ordinance, Karat attacked the NDA government saying they keeps talking about "ease of doing business", but there is no talk about "ease of doing farming".
Besides Karat, CPI (M) Lok Sabha MP Jitendra Choudhury, secretary of AARM's West Bengal unit Pulin Baske and others were also present during the meeting.
The delegation also said to have drawn the President's attention towards Fifth Schedule areas where tribals are prohibited from transferring, selling or leasing tribal land to non-tribals. However, the state claiming ownership of all minerals takes over the land and hands it over to private parties.
"This raises a legal and constitutional issue. The Samatha judgement of Supreme Court in 1997 reiterated this aspect of prohibition of transfer of tribal land and held it is illegal. It emphasised the need for consultation with tribal communities as well as ensuring a clear stake for tribals because they have the surface rights of the land and also because forest areas in which minerals are to be found are a direct source of livelihood," Karat said.
Besides the legal issues, the delegation also brought the President's attention towards UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 which makes mandatory "free, prior and informed consent" of communities set to be affected and Article 32 of the said declaration is specific to mining of minerals. In February 2008, the UN Development Group released "Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples Issues".
"None of these aspects have been considered," she added.