Research on mining

Happy to report that I have  finished with classes in school. I would be lying if I said, I will not miss sitting in a class and engaging in it. Even reading a book can be political, someone said.  Being in a class, is not far behind. But all good things come to an end, and therefore, perhaps, there is progress. There just a small detail of writing a 100 page thesis, over the next few months!

I was away in India executing fieldwork for my research on mining. It was absolutely amazing to meet a whole gamut of people from bureaucrats, company folks, lawyers and  activists, who resignedly, painted the unfolding dynamics of the mining industry in Odisha, a state in Eastern India. As is typical of these stories, it’s a mineral rich region, with poor development indicators. There have been lots of investments, lots of violations with respect to the environment, authorities have dragged their feet to implement what are fairly decent provisions in law. Meanwhile, the plight of local communities has deteriorated, even as there is a split right through the middle, on whether industrialization as a result of mining is the preferred model of development in the agrarian state.

So I will be busy analysing the legal framework that entails unfettered investment in mining in the state and the resultant regulatory challenges. I need to come up with a report, sooner than I think it will be.

If you are interested in the subject, a good starting point would be ‘Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel’ by Felix Padel and Samarendra Das. I am yet to finish it, but struck by the link the book makes between the aluminium industry and dams!

The issue in Odisha and in 10 other Indian states, is not about mining per se. Its a whole set of factors intertwined to give rise to this hellish ecosystem where development means displacement of people and deterioration of the environment.

On another note, it is always a pleasure to go back home to India. One is hopeful and pessimistic at the same time. Hopeful because one did not get run over by errant drivers; and pessimistic, because even if one did, there would be little recourse to justice. There is truth and exaggeration in this depending on where you are standing.

I have come to become obsessed with being too deterministic about what law can do for us.

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