ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ecological Rift and Alienation: Field notes from Goa and Sikkim

Goa and Sikkim, two of the smallest states in India by area, are also places that have some of the richest plant and animal biodiversity, with Goa nestled between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, and Sikkim being a part of the eastern Himalayas. Incidentally, their natural beauty also makes them ideal tourist destinations. Currently, Goa is about to see a resumption in mining activities, mining fields that were left abandoned for a decade will open up soon, and places like Mollem (an ecological hotspot) will be dug up in the name of “development projects” (Datta 2022). The mountains of Sikkim and North Bengal too are being dug up for the Sivok-Rangpo railway project, with plans of extending it to Gangtok at a second phase later on. In this paper, I explore the Marxist ecological tradition and the metabolic rift through primary field evidence from Goa, and parts of North Bengal and Sikkim. I present the observations from field visits to these places followed by an analysis of observations from the Marxian ecologist perspective, foregrounding the idea of ecological rift and alienation as discussed by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, Richard York and Fred Magdoff.

The ‘Common Good’ Has a Price

Mining in India sees monetary compensation as a substitute for the common good.


Who Will Guard the Guardians? State Accountability in India's Environmental Governance

Effective public accountability is a prerequisite for protecting India's environment and the environmental human rights of all Indians. However, the question of what factors promote the accountability of public institutions remains under-researched in India. The recent and ongoing attempts by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to undermine environmental regulations beg a fundamental question that has yet to be debated adequately: Who will guard the guardians? In this essay, we discuss the importance of divided administrative jurisdictions for fostering relations of accountability in public institutions. Specifically, we highlight the divided jurisdiction that the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 creates in the regulation of mining and other non-forestry activities in forest areas and its implications for bolstering relations of accountability in environmental governance. Amidst serious attempts to undermine these arrangements, we ask the readers and policymakers to consider the importance of public accountability for transforming India’s national environmental regulatory framework.

The Coal Conundrum

Only an empowered regulator can help boost production and cut coal imports.

The Structural Problems of Rat-Hole Mining in Meghalaya

Despite a ban on rat-hole mining in Meghalaya from 2014, the profitability of the industry has meant that no real efforts are being made to implement the ban effectively.

Intergenerational Equity Case Study

The public trust doctrine makes natural resources a part of the commons, owned equally by all, and legally owned by the state. The resources and opportunities that the present generation have inherited must be available to future generations in perpetuity. In the Goa mining case, the Supreme Court wanted to implement intergenerational equity on the grounds of the exhaustion of the iron-ore reserves as well as the widespread damage to the Goan environment and social fabric.

Radioactive Minerals and Private Sector Mining

The proposals of three state governments to lease the mining rights for monazite-ilmenite to private parties need a thorough debate on all aspects with regard to the release of radioactive elements, storage and safety of wastes, and impact on the environment and food chain, before the plans are pushed through.

Pits and Profits

Lalbandh has been described as a desolate wasteland some 25 km from Asansol in West Bengal’s rich coal belt. It made newspaper columns in the eastern region last week when 30-odd miners were trapped in a coal mine that had long been declared closed. The mine used to be once operated by Eastern Coalfields, a subsidiary of Coal India, which subsequently closed the mine ostensibly because it had been mined out. But evidently that was not the case – the mine was being privately operated, illegally and clearly without regard to the health and safety of the miners. And the fact of its operation was widely known in the area, to the police, to the mine safety authorities, to the local district administration, etc. And yet when the mine subsided or collapsed last week, it was only after the relatives of the trapped miners raised a hue and cry that the local police and the mines safety authorities bestirred themselves to attempt rescue operations. It is now 10 days since the disaster occurred and there is little hope that any of the trapped workers will be rescued. Even extricating their bodies will be difficult because there is little information on the underground plan of the mine or where the miners were working. With no mandatory safety regulations in place – since this was an illegal operation – the miners who went underground knew full well the high risk of the operation. But in an area where employment opportunities are scarce, mining is the only livelihood, however risky and illegal the mines.

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