The urgency of implementing the provisions of the Panchayat Extension of Scheduled Act (PESA) in Jharkhand, the immediacy of involving the gram sabhas in the decentralization of development and the plan of thinking about a parallel economy once the extraction coal shutdown within the next 10 to 15 years. These were some of the key points that emerged during a day-long discussion on climate change and its impact on Jharkhand and the roadmap for a ‘just transition’.
The event was organized by ASAR and the Policy and Development Advisory Group in Ranchi. Panelists included Rural Development Secretary Manish Ranjan and Mining Secretary Abu Bakr Siddique from the Government of Jharkhand as well as academics and civil society.
Anjal Prakash, Research Director at the Bharti School Of Public Policy, spoke about the need to leverage local knowledge, how research could help report on micro-level climate change patterns, and how need to involve educational institutes such as the IIM in climate research. He, however, questioned the state government’s action plan on the climate front.
In another session on understanding the role of decentralized renewable energy in the scheme of things, Ramesh Sharan, Director of the Eastern Regional Center of the Institute for Human Development, said: “First we need decentralized development. At the village of freedom fighter Birsa Munda, there is a solar panel installed for electricity, but the key is with the contractor where the villagers cannot even use it. In some villages the solar powered water tanks are not working and there is no feedback process… PESA has not been implemented in its true spirit in Jharkhand but things are changing slowly.
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The implementation of the provisions of the PESA has been a point of contention in the state. According to the latest economic survey report, out of 24 districts, 16 districts in the state are fully or partially covered by the law. However, according to the survey, “with the exception of the restricted sale of intoxicants, the possession of minor forest products, the prevention of land alienation and the control of money lending, all other provisions of the PESA have been complied with in the State”. Faced with constant pressure from civil society, the government recently submitted draft PESA rules for consultation for the first time.
Siddique, who recently took over the department, explained how minerals brought the state revenue of around Rs 6,000 crore and said 70% of that revenue came from coal. He emphasized the role of the District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) in the development work. A portion of the revenue collected from mining companies and contractors, among others, will be used as DMFT funds to meet the needs of those affected by mining and related operations. Siddique also spoke about the role of gram sabhas in implementing DMFT.
However, a recent audit of DMFT funds conducted by the Principal State Auditor General in six districts highlighted the misappropriation of funds, for example for the construction of a dak bungalow in Ranchi and gymnasiums in Bokaro as well as for the purchase of furniture for the office of a deputy commissioner. This comes as nothing has been spent from DMFT funds in Jharia, the largest coal mining affected area in the state.
Siddique mentioned the audit report and said, “It is sad that during the implementation of the DMFT, the gram sabhas were not consulted… (But) I express my appreciation for such a discussion on climate change. For a very long time, we could not have such discussions. For a just transition, we need to have a clear idea.
Once coal mining is finally stopped in the next 10 to 15 years, as planned to control global warming, Ashim Roy, founder of the Chemical Mazdoor Panchayat, said: “The government must act now because it means the Revenues of Rs 6,000 crore will be lost and that means money going to social sectors from that amount will also be stopped, affecting the whole state. The government must formulate a policy to deal with this change.