Ranchi: “Mining is the sale of the family gold. All over the world, politicians and miners collaborate to extract and sell the inherited minerals for peanuts, which are then consumed. We are becoming poorer. This is unsustainable,” Rahul Basu, Research Director at Goa Foundation told in Ranchi
Basu gave a public lecture on the topic Jharkhand’s minerals is our Jaydaad: how can we protect our family good? at Xavier Institute of Social Service, Ranchi on Thursday.
“State government is not someone who owns the minerals but it is custodian of the minerals which needs to be passed on to the next generation. Citizens also need to understand that if you sell all the minerals then what they will give to their future generations,” said Basu while empathetically appealing to people of Jharkhand to start talking about the loot of their minerals.
Basu has been advocating for treating minerals as intergenerational equity and fighting for Goans to have the share of iron ore mining since the resources belong to the citizens.
Giving an example of Goa, he explained how the state lost 95% of the revenue from iron ore mining over 8 years(2004-2012), incurring a loss of over Rs 50,000 crore. If the revenue from the mineral was put in an endowment fund, attracting an interest of 3% percent adjusting the inflation and other costs, every citizen of Goa would have been getting Rs 1000 per month. But now that money is gone benefiting a very few people.
To address the problem of plundering of minerals, Basu proposed a solution:
Minerals are a Shared Inheritance – 5 principles
1. Natural resources are a commons, owned by the state as trustee for the people and esp. future generations (Public Trust Doctrine)
2. Minerals are inherited assets and we are simply custodians for future generations (Intergenerational Equity Principle)
Consider inherited gold. If we keep it safe, our children can inherit the gold. If we sell gold to purchase land (which provides income), we must ensure we get the full value, and invest everything in land. If there’s income after maintaining the land, we can consume it. Our children will inherit the land and benefit from the income in turn. Intergenerational equity. By extension:
3. If we mine, we must ensure Zero loss – we must get the full value of mineral (sale price minus extraction expenses and a reasonable return on capital for the miner)
4. All mineral receipts saved in a Permanent Fund (endowment fund), a part of the commons.
5. We own the minerals, the fund and its income. Any real income (after reinvesting for inflation) be distributed only as a Citizens’ Dividend, a right of ownership.
The public lecture was attended by Jean Dreze, an economist and visiting professor at Ranchi university, who appreciated the ideas presented by Basu and said that seeing minerals as intergenerational equity will at least slow down the way resources like coals and bauxite are being plundered in the state.
Basu gave examples of Norway and Alaska, where in certain form the concept of intergenerational equity has been put in place benefiting the citizens. Currently, Norway, a country with a population of 5 million people, is sitting on an intergenerational fund of over 1.4 trillion dollars created from selling the north-sea oil which is double the forex reserve of India.
The audience welcomed the ideas shared by Basu and believed a movement is needed in the state so that the minerals are treated as a shared inheritance rather than a way to earn revenue.