13 June 2024
State Violence in India's Coal War Studied

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State violence in India’s coal war is analyzed in new research. Fourteen years ago, police deployed to block villagers from protesting a power plant on coastal wetlands shot at protesters, killing three and injuring hundreds. Two years later, on the other side of the country, a Buddhist monk was killed in resistance to a hydroelectric dam project.

State Violence in India’s Coal War: Uncovering the Hidden Costs of Energy Transitions



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India, a nation aspiring to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, faces a stark reality: its heavy reliance on coal as an energy source. This contradiction fuels ongoing debates about energy transitions, justice, and the role of state-sanctioned violence in land expropriation.

State Violence in India’s Coal Transitions: A Deeper Look

Mukul Kumar, an assistant professor of urban planning and public policy, has delved into this complex issue, shedding light on the violent aspects of energy transitions in India. His research, published in Climate and Development, examines 121 coal and hydropower projects in the country.

Kumar’s findings reveal a disturbing pattern: both coal and hydropower energy transitions are characterized by significant state-sanctioned violence. This violence often manifests as police violence, arrests, and even killings of protestors who oppose the expansion of extractive energy industries.

The Case of Coal and Hydropower in India

India’s coal industry, responsible for 70% of the country’s electricity-generating capacity, has been a major driver of economic growth. However, this growth has come at a price. Coal mining and transportation have led to environmental degradation, displacement of communities, and health issues for those living near coal-fired power plants.

Hydropower, often touted as a clean and renewable energy source, has also been marred by violence. The construction of dams has resulted in the displacement of Indigenous communities, disruption of ecosystems, and conflicts over water rights.

The Impact of State Violence on Vulnerable Communities in India

The brunt of this violence falls disproportionately on Indigenous (Adivasi) and frontline communities, including Dalits, landless farmers, and artisanal fishers. These communities, already marginalized and facing various forms of discrimination, bear the additional burden of state violence and land expropriation.

Just Transition: A Call for Reckoning with State Violence in India

India’s Ministry of Coal has recently announced the establishment of a World Bank-financed just transition division. However, Kumar emphasizes the need to address the historical injustices of state violence and land expropriation within the context of both fossil fuel and low-carbon energy transitions.

Just transition policies, which aim to ensure a fair and equitable transition to a sustainable energy future, must acknowledge and repair the past harms caused by state violence. This includes holding police officers accountable for the criminalization of dissent and providing redress for affected communities.

Moving Forward: A Path to True Justice in India’s Energy Transitions

To achieve truly just energy transitions, Kumar urges energy policy makers and researchers to confront the role of state-sanctioned violence and take steps to address its consequences. This includes incorporating mechanisms for redress, such as compensation for victims of violence and the establishment of independent accountability mechanisms.

By repairing and redressing the historical injustices of state violence, India can move towards a more just and sustainable energy future that respects the rights of all communities, especially the marginalized and vulnerable.

Wrapping Up

India’s energy transitions, both in terms of fossil fuels and low-carbon sources, have been marked by state-sanctioned violence and land expropriation. This violence disproportionately impacts Indigenous and frontline communities, exacerbating existing inequalities.

Just transition policies must confront this historical injustice and take steps to redress the harms caused by state violence. By acknowledging and repairing the past, India can pave the way for a truly just and sustainable energy future.

FAQ’s

1. What is the main focus of Mukul Kumar’s research?

Mukul Kumar’s research focuses on the violent aspects of energy transitions in India, particularly in the context of coal and hydropower projects.

2. What are the key findings of Kumar’s research?

Kumar’s research revealed that both coal and hydropower energy transitions in India are characterized by significant state-sanctioned violence, including police violence, arrests, and killings of protestors.

3. How does state-sanctioned violence impact vulnerable communities?

State-sanctioned violence disproportionately affects Indigenous (Adivasi) and frontline communities, including Dalits, landless farmers, and artisanal fishers. These communities often face displacement, environmental degradation, and health issues due to energy transitions.

4. What is the significance of just transition policies in addressing state violence?

Just transition policies aim to ensure a fair and equitable transition to a sustainable energy future. They play a crucial role in addressing state violence by acknowledging and repairing the past harms caused by energy transitions, such as land expropriation and criminalization of dissent.

5. What steps can be taken to achieve a truly just energy future in India?

To achieve a just energy future, India needs to confront the role of state-sanctioned violence in energy transitions and take steps to address its consequences. This includes incorporating mechanisms for redress, providing compensation to victims of violence, and establishing independent accountability mechanisms.

Links to additional Resources:

1. https://www.hrw.org/ 2. https://www.amnesty.org/ 3. https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: State violence in India, Coal mining in India, Just transition

Religious violence in India
Religious violence in India includes acts of violence by followers of one religious group against followers and institutions of another religious group, often in the form of rioting. Religious violence in India has generally involved Hindus and Muslims. Despite the secular and religiously tolerant constitution of India, broad religious representation...
Read more: Religious violence in India

Coal in India
Coal in India has been mined since 1774, and India is the second largest producer and consumer of coal after China, mining 777.31 million metric tons (856.84 million short tons) in FY 2022. Around 30% of coal is imported. Due to demand, supply mismatch and poor quality with high ash...
Read more: Coal in India

Just transition
Just transition is a framework developed by the trade union movement to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers' rights and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production, primarily combating climate change and protecting biodiversity. In Europe, advocates for a just transition want to unite social...
Read more: Just transition

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