The Maoists Under-Mine The State

I’ve got a piece in this month’s Jane’s Intelligence Review about the impact Maoists are having on the mining sector. There’s a short extract below but I can’t show the rest because they don’t like me breaking all their copyright rules.

I’ll give you the basic gist though: Mining has definitely been affected by the fighting and the Maoists love to blow up railway lines and occasionally kill people who work at the mines, but at the moment their priority is building up their guerrilla army and killing policemen and so forth and they rely too much on the presence of big mining companies to provide them with oodles of extortion money. The real threat to mining comes from popular resistance movements, such as that against the Posco site, not least because they have some pretty legitimate grievances about people’s land being ripped from under them. The Maoists act as a force-multiplier for these  movements and have helped draw media attention to them.

The government has responded with some ill-conceived and under-resourced security measures against the Maoists and some slightly better-considered new laws about treating poor people more nicely. For instance, the new Mining and Minerals (Development) Bill plans to give 26% of all profits from mining to the local community. Sadly, it might be too late since the popular movements have a lot of momentum behind them these days. Also, top-down legislative solutions face some serious obstacles in practice when you still have hugely corrupt and ineffective government structures in place.

Added to that, after I went to hear Paul Collier talk yesterday, I think he would argue that giving the money from a national resource only to the local community is not at all the best way to ensure it serves the nation as a whole and provides for future generations. More on that later.

Here’s an extract from the Jane’s piece, just to show that it’s not written in quite so flippant and silly a way as this post:

The party’s activity has been concentrated in six central and eastern states where a combination of poverty, poor governance, difficult terrain and large tribal populations offer an effective operating environment. Four of these states – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa – also happen to be rich in mineral reserves, particularly iron ore, bauxite, coal and limestone. Between them, they accounted for 51.3 per cent of India’s revenues from onshore mining in 2009-2010, according to the Ministry of Mines.

The government has adopted a two-pronged paramilitary and legal counter-insurgency strategy but its success is far from assured. Even if it is effective in undermining the Maoists’ operational capabilities in the short term, it is unlikely to address various underlying grievances of populations in mineral-rich areas, so unrest is set to continue in the medium term in the form of resistance movements, if not organised insurgency.

Read the rest here (if you’ve got loads of money or belong to a shadowy government agency of some kind)…

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