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Why There Is No Such Thing As ‘Ethical Mining’

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By Anjana Radhakrishnan:

A labourer carries coal in a basket to load it in a truck at a coal store in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh October 25, 2010. Demand for coal is forecast to grow 11 percent a year in India, which aims to halve its peak-hour power deficit of nearly 14 percent over the next two years and triple its generation capacity over the next decade. REUTERS/Ajay Verma (INDIA - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY) - RTXTTFB
Image credit: Reuters/Ajay Verma.

According to the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJA), there are more environmental conflicts in India than any other country. Considering wide swathes of India remain ravaged by heat waves, severe droughts, and an increasing death toll, it’s not surprising to hear that Indian citizens and activists are increasingly rallying against political and economic systems which create and exacerbate such conditions.

And this isn’t just an Indian problem – it’s an extractivist problem. Naomi Klein, in her recent book ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate’ defines the extractive mindset as “taking without caretaking, of treating land and people as resources to deplete rather than as complex entities with rights to a dignified existence based on renewal and regeneration”. The neoliberal capitalism, which undergirds our global economic system is based entirely on this heedless extraction of natural resources.

Take mineral-rich countries in Africa for example. Many of the mining contracts currently in place are legacies of colonial power, encouraging government corruption and leaving little sustenance for the people on the ground. While contracts have been renegotiated and environmental laws have been enacted, little which directly alleviates the concerns of local people has been enforced.

These patterns are repeated across the globe, India being no exception. Despite laws such as the FRA, the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) and the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act which return democratic rights to local peoples, extractive development projects have continued to bulldoze their way to profit in ways which destroy faith in government institutions.

In February, the Chhattisgarh government cancelled tribal rights over forest lands, overruling legal rights given to gram sabhas under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and to grant mining companies access to forest land. In return for these land grabs, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh has promised poverty alleviation, job creation and revival of jewellery and goldsmithing trades.

However, research published by the Centre for Science and Environment in 2008 belies such promises, finding that states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa, which are heavily dependent on mining resources, have “very low per capita incomes, greater poverty, high rates of malnutrition and mortality”.

While benignly named companies like Adani Mining and Vedanta Resources, can enter, extract, and leave, the local people have no such choice. Those who aren’t displaced or torn away from their hereditary lands are left with lands left infertile and utterly spent. As Raúl Zibechi succinctly puts it, “Extractivism creates a society without subjects. There can only be objects within a scorched-earth model like extractivism.”

Having deep-rooted relationships with their lands, many Indian citizens, however, are unwilling to give up their basic needs – land, water, food, clean air. And they’ve faced significant backlash for asserting their rights.

Activist Soni Sori, who endured an acid attack because of her anti-mining efforts, has recently spoken out on the government’s utilisation of the ‘Naxalite threat’ as an excuse to imprison and kill Adivasis, thereby gaining access to land taken without settling rights. Protests against mining activity in Goa recently led to violent arrests of peaceful activists. The Vizhinjam port project in Kerala received a green light despite significant levels of protest from local people. The Madhya Pradesh government recently invoked Section 144 in response to calls for peaceful protest against South Eastern Coalfields Limited.

This type of resistance doesn’t spring up overnight. It is built over decades of hollow promises, unethical practices, and the government’s thorough lack of concern for democratic rights. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be, “How do we make extraction-based development projects more ethical?” but rather, “Why must we extract in the first place? Who benefits?” It certainly isn’t the people of the land.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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