OIL BATTLE OVER & COAL FORESTS
As India debates how to allocate natural resources, the north-eastern states face a peculiar challenge: communities want recognition of their ownership over coal, forests and oil, the three nationalised" resources.
These tribal communities have traditionally controlled vast tracts of land and its resources, such as forests and coal, through well-established community institutions. They are now eager to exercise their ownership over oil. The Centre has for long protected their autonomy through various Constitutional provisions. The state governments have acknowledged this. But as the value of natural resources touch an all-time high, the governments turn their eyes to the largely untapped region, perhaps the most resourcerich landscape in the country. The hydrocarbon reserves in Nagaland may increase India's on-shore oil and natural gas production potential by 75 per cent. The coal reserves in Meghalaya are worth 10 times the state's GDP. In Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, 60 per cent and 30 per cent of forests are with communities (see map `Centre state community'). As the Centre tightens its control over oil, coal and forests, states try to wrest control from it by citing special Constitutional provisions and community rights. With industries on board, the states are also exploiting legal loopholes to hoard benefits from these resources. Communities now find themselves in a quandary. While tribal communities in Nagaland and Meghalaya are protesting and approaching courts to protect their rights over oil and coal, those in Mizoram, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh are struggling to retain control over their forests.
travels to the region to unravel this fight for resources