Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) has urged the Manipur state government to call off its plan for extraction of minerals like chromite and limestone in the state, maintaining that the same is against Article 371-C of the Indian Constitution which safeguards lands, water, forests and tribal customs.
“We, Tangkhul Naga Long, being the proud custodian of our land with rich biodiversity and mineral resources, appeal to the Government of Manipur to desist from all mining plans with immediate effect and to respect rights to self-determined development of the indigenous communities,” TNL President Hopingson A Shimray stated in a press statement issued on Friday evening.
According to Shimray, TNL had a brainstorming discussion over the issue on 26 November 2020 with the district’s civil society organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Churches, social leaders and activists.
He said that TNL is conveying the public sentiments against the government’s plan for extracting natural minerals in the state.
He also lamented that the state government secretively signed MoU’s with different mining companies during the North East Business Summit held at Imphal on 21-22 November 2017.
“This is violation of the rights to ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ of the indigenous communities,” he said, while adding that the same has undermined Article 371-C of the Indian Constitution by bypassing the consent of the Hill Area Committee (HAC), as matters affecting land, water, forests and tribal customs are within the purview of the HAC.
Among those companies that had signed MoUs for chromite explorations included M/S Sarvesh Refractories Pvt. Ltd, Rourkela, M/s Rourkela Minerals Pvt. Ltd, Rourkela, M/s Kotak Resources, Mumbai, M/s Gulf Natural Resources, Gurgaon, M/s Visa Steel Ltd, Odisha, M/s Manipur Mines and Mineral Pvt. Ltd., M/s Balassore Alloys Ltd, Odisha etc, while those contracted for limestone exploration and mining and establishing cement plants are M/s Super Ores, Guwahati, M/s Gulf Natural Resources, Gurgaon, and M/s Ramung Enterprises, Imphal.
Shimray then questioned the soundness of the pre-feasibility study report (PFR) prepared by the mining companies which claimed that Shirui (mentioned as Sirohi) and Lunghar area is devoid of any forestlands or agricultural lands along with Shingcha-Gamnom area and other villages listed for mining.
“The reality is, Shirui-Lunghar hill range is one of the most forested and eco-sensitive zones – a habitat to important wild life including rare and endangered lily species Lilium mackliniea (Shiroy Lily), vulnerable Plyth’s tragopan, Phoebe hainesiana (state tree of Manipur), endangered insects and amphibian species and the only water source that supply the entire Ukhrul town and neighboring villages,” he asserted.
He said that the proposed areas for mining fall under the Indo-Burma global biodiversity hot spot zone, which is an asset for global common and that mining in such forested areas with rich biodiversity would undermine the goals of sustainable development.
“What the poor people in the mining zone have is only their lands and resources therein lies their livelihood. License for mining at the cost of marginalized indigenous communities will defeat sustainable development agenda of “Leaving no one behind”, Shimray pointed out.
He observed that the state government ought to know that development through mining is not the answer to uplift the state economy as experienced in other parts of India and across the world. “Extractive industries are the source of conflicts everywhere and it will only intensify multifaceted conflicts and human rights violation in the state.”
The limited royalty through mining cannot commensurate with deepening poverty, loss of land, exploitation of cheap labor, depleting resources and inequality among the already marginalized indigenous communities to satiate a few people’s hunger for more profits, according to the TNL chief.
“In times when the whole world pledges for sustainable development goals to ease climate change crisis and reverse loss of biological diversity, indigenous communities despite being at the receiving end, continue contributing to sustainable development goals through their collective efforts by having direct access and control over their land and resources,” he said.
He then urged the state government to be a good duty bearer, and not to target indigenous land for mining. “Not because of our sustainable practices of conserving rich natural resources but because our rights to self-determination over our land, territories and resources should be respected and safeguarded under Article 371-C of the Indian Constitution”.