Land in Meghalaya, India, was traditionally agricultural/forest land, owned by the community. With increasing privatization and rising commercial value of land for non-agricultural use, many owners have sold the land for mining operations. So-called rat-hole coal mining has resulted in environmental degradation as well as in the loss of lives of miners, most of whom are from outside the state. The National Green Tribunal has banned coal mining until safer, more environmentally sound policies and practices are in place. Critics in Meghalaya claim that the ban encroaches on the tribal way of life and point to constitutional provisions exempting Meghalaya from the purview of national mining laws. However, the courts are clear: Meghalaya’s exemptions do not allow them to violate the constitutional right to life of all Indian citizens. The traditional institutions are not strong enough to mitigate the rising inequality among citizens following from mining and other commercial operations.
Author: Hugo Stokke
Hugo Stokke is a political scientist focusing on human rights research.
His interests include: international labour standards, multinatinational corporations, affirmative action and ethnic discrimination, child labour and human rights monitoring, as well as the theoretical foundation of human rights.
He has worked extensively in the Asian region, covering a number of countries both in South and Southeast Asia. He worked for three years as an Associate Expert with the ILO in the Asian region and has been on regular missions to the region since then. He is currently engaged in work on international organisation with a focus on the ILO, human rights obligations of private enterprise and affirmative action as a means of responding to structural discrimination among groups in society. He was the editor of three volumes of the Human Rights in Development Yearbook series (1997 - 2000). Current research interest is on rights and legal institutions.