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Analyzing the Regulation of Mineral Clause (National Mineral Policy 2019) in Terms of Vigilante Forces and Precedents

This article explores the possible implications of Clause 2 of the National Mineral Policy 2019 which deals with Regulation of Minerals. This analysis has been made in terms of Vigilante Forces and precedents. Clause 2.4 (hereinafter “Clause”) talks about strengthening e-policies and running awareness campaigns, most importantly it states, “Efforts shall also be made to devise appropriate mechanism(s) for awareness and information campaigns and also for the involvement of local populations to supplement the law enforcement capabilities in preventing illegal mining.”The language employed by the Clause leaves ample scope for ambiguity in its implementation.
When looking at the possible repercussions of involving the local populous in law enforcement, two approaches may be adopted. One can be, to look at it through the eyes of precedence in the country, specific to the regions where mines are in abundance. This view takes into consideration how the SalwaJudum policy of the government panned out.The other way could be, to look at it through a positive perspective and focus on places where alternate measures such as these have helped in the reduction of illegal activities.A befitting example of this, would be the Kaziranga National Park’s policies to stop poaching.
SalwaJudum as a Case Study
In 2005, SalwaJudum was conceptualized as a combatant force to face Naxals. It was supposed to recruit tribals with a promise of provision of wages and access to healthcare. Engaging the local population in law enforcement might have been a good idea on paper, but in practice, the lack of training and grant of unregulated power to them, led to the force going rouge. Added to this, was the extremely high-tensionnature of the region due to it being a Maoist corridor,which served as the perfect setting for turmoil. What ended up happening thus, was the operation going out of hand leading to villages being attacked, houses being looted and women being raped.
Now it’ll be a stretch to jump to the conclusion that supplement of law enforcement will always lead to the formation of a violent vigilante group,culminating in a major escalation of issues such as in the case of SalwaJudum. However, it is a way of approaching the issue from its genesis and understanding how civilian involvement in law enforcement, if let uncontrolled and entrusted to untrained individuals, who are not taught restraint, may lead to escalation in illegal mining zones where the mining mafia uses violence regularly. Similar conditions led to the rouge behavior portrayed by SalwaJudum.
The validity of SalwaJudum was challenged in the case of Nandini Sundar v. the State of Chhattisgarh, where the Supreme Court held it to be violative of a number of fundamental rights:
  1. In light of the above, we hold that both Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India have been violated, and will continue to be violated, by the appointment of tribal youths, with very little education, as SPOs are engaged in counter-insurgency activities. The lack of adequate prior education incapacitates them with respect to the acquisition of skills, knowledge and analytical tools to function effectively as SPOs engaged in any manner in counter-insurgency activities against the Maoists.
  2. Article 14 is violated because subjecting such youngsters to the same levels of dangers as members of the regular force who have better educational backgrounds, receive better training, and because of better educational backgrounds possess a better capacity to benefit from training that is appropriate for the duties to be performed in counter-insurgency activities, would be to treat unequal as equals. Moreover, inasmuch as such youngsters, with such low educational qualifications and the consequent scholastic inabilities to benefit from appropriate training, can also not be expected to be effective in engaging in counter-insurgency activities, the policy of employing such youngsters as SPOs engaged in counter-insurgency activities is irrational, arbitrary and capricious.
  3. Article 21 is violated because, notwithstanding the claimed volition on the part of these youngsters to appointment as SPOs engaged in counter-insurgency activities, youngsters with such low educational qualifications cannot be expected to understand the dangers that they are likely to face, the skills needed to face such dangers, and the requirements of the necessary judgment while discharging such responsibilities. Further, because of their low levels of educational achievements, they will also not be in a position to benefit from an appropriately designed training program, that is commensurate with the kinds of duties, liabilities, disciplinary code and dangers that they face, to their lives and health. Consequently, appointing such youngsters as SPOs with duties, that would involve any counter-insurgency activities against the Maoists, even if it were claimed that they have been put through rigorous training, would be to endanger their lives.
It is absolutely true that the violence by the Mining Mafia isn’t anywhere close to what has been inflicted by Maoists over the years, however, it isn’t without its fair share of bloodshed. A study by National Geographic points out to the multiple assaults on government officials who’ve intervened in the activities, moreover, the mafia has left a bloody trail of deaths of journalists who made efforts to expose them. This just points to the datum that there exists an inherent element of extreme violence in this area and providing any armed support to the forces, may put many lives in jeopardy.
At this point, one may argue that involvement of local populations in local law enforcement does not have to always manifest in the form of handing down of weaponry.It could also be done through other jobs such as that of police informers.The narrative, however, is still problematic because a lot of the local populous works in these mines, moreover being informers would put their lives at risk, which would be in contravention to the above-mentioned judgment.Thus the policy in the very least should specify as to how will they move forward with the plan and make sure that the same doesn’t run into conflict with all the possibilities that exist from the same.
The other view that exists: Kaziranga as a Case study
The optimistic view though, would debunk the belief system that the involvement of local populations would lead to something as dire as the rouge state of affairs under SalwaJudum. Citing the ambiguity of the policy and how it may pan out in the future, it is of extreme importance that this view is also looked into.
A good example as to how the following policy can be better implemented, can be found in what has happened in Kaziranga and otherwise a lot many National parks. A lot of the research assistants that work in the forests and rangers are from the local populous.They are a part of the wildlife and conservation ecosystem and help researchers in daily activities such as collaring, marking and conducting surveys. Additionally, they also play a positive part in stopping poaching. In Kaziranga, the rangers have an order to shoot on-site, the same has led to a reduction in poaching.
This reduction in poaching however, has not come without a cost. There are many news reports discussing the dangers that forest rangers face on a daily basis due to the abundant violence inflicted on them by the poachers too.The lack of properly defined boundaries of the Park sometimes leads to attack on innocent villagers who happen to enter the Park by accident. Thus, even in the case of Kaziranga, violence remains an element in law enforcement by untrained civilians.
Conclusion
The case studies of both SalwaJudum and Kaziranga National Park, provide two extremes of what might be the result of the implementation of this Clause. Analyzing both the scenarios, it is highly probable that violence would be an element of involving civilians in law enforcement. The difference in both these cases is in the setting, the scale of the violence and its result. While violence yielded desired results in the case of Kaziranga, it was not the same with SalwaJudum, where it only led to loss of life and property.
While implementing the Clause, it is extremely important for the government to be aware that the paradigm of implementation of the National Mineral Policy is closer to that of SalwaJudum as compared to Kaziranga. The probable repercussions too, could therefore, be closer to the indiscriminate violence and plunder inflicted by SalwaJudum.
The bottom-line thus, would be a need to have a clearer piece in the policy about the same. Considering the ambiguity of the Clause, it is not clear how the government plans to implement it. It would therefore be advisable to keep in mind precedents while formulating directions on the enforcement of the Clause. Even though these precedents may not present a definitive picture, they do present possibilities, that if adequately considered, could prevent a replay of something akin to SalwaJudum.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

 

 

 

Agrima Gupta is a 3rd year law student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jibran Khan is a 3rd year law student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.

 

 

 

 

In content picture credit: Goxi

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