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India’s economic expansion to boost mining: President Kovind

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New Delhi: India’s GDP and a larger developmental process will gain momentum over the coming decades and in turn bolster the mining and minerals sector, President Ram Nath Kovind said today.

He also asserted that eventually, the local communities must benefit from the discovery, extraction and development of mineral resources.

The reform process set in motion in the mining sector four years ago is bearing rich dividends and will enhance the fiscal health of states, Kovind said at the National Geoscience awards event here.

“India is one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. Our GDP, as well as our larger developmental process, is set to accelerate over the coming decades. The mining and mineral sector is poised to grow as a result of this expansion of the economy. At the same time, it will also be a driver of economic expansion,” he said.

India’s per capita consumption of many resources and commodities is still very low by global standards and there is room to grow, he said, adding that as more cities, houses and infrastructure are built, the use of key resources will rise.

Kovind said India needs high-quality research initiatives for sustainable, ecologically-friendly resource generation and meaningful investment in technological innovation in the mining sector.

“That is why reforms in the mining sector have been pushed by the government over the past four years. These reforms, including amendments to existing laws and establishing a more equitable system of royalties, are starting to show results,” he said.

Stating that a number of mineral blocks are being explored, he said steps taken by the Ministry of Mines have led to ithe dentification of promising mineral blocks in states for auction and this will go a long way in enhancing the financial health of the states and allow them to spread the benefits from mining of resources.

However, he cautioned, “We must be mindful of the human side of mining. Many of our mineral resources are found in regions that have been the home of tribal communities for generations.

“It is important that these communities are part of the prosperity that the mining economy creates. Rehabilitation and resettlement of our tribal brothers and sisters… must be done in a sensitive and satisfactory manner.”

At the same time, he said, the mining process itself must incorporate the best available safety and health mechanisms for mining workers as well as for their families, who often stay in close proximity to mining sites besides minimizing the environmental impact of mining and resource extraction.

“If this requires using technologies that add to extraction costs, then we cannot shy away from that. India must mine more but India must also mine better and in a sustainable manner,” he emphasised.

The President further said that social expectations from the geoscientific community have increased significantly in recent years.

He added that with deep understanding of landform dynamics, it has an important role to play in enhancing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes; in providing a bedrock to the Smart Cities initiative; and in helping citizens fight the challenge of water scarcity, which has emerged as a pressing problem.

He said, “The implications of geosciences are not limited to just prospecting mines. Whether it is to build railway lines or communication corridors; make assessments for river linking projects or investigate natural hazards such as earthquakes and landslides; manage our coasts and deserts in a time of climate change; or add value to agriculture and help develop new urban centres the applications of geosciences are extremely diverse and extremely useful.”

Kovind also stressed the need for assessing the potential of offshore resource base saying exploration by marine geoscientists must be encouraged as India has a long coastline and a sizeable marine zone that holds many treasures and “So far we have scratched the surface.”

He said that in March 2020, less than two years from now, India will host the 36th International Geological Congress, the biggest in the world.

Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said 36 blocks bearing major minerals other than coal, explored by GSI and auctioned recently will fetch additional revenue to the tune of Rs 1.11 lakh crore to states.

He said adequate provisions under the Mines and Minerals (Development) and Regulation Act has been done and District Mineral Funds have been created to address the concerns of villagers impacted by mining in mineral-rich states.

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Residents stage protest at the accident site in Amritsar

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Joda Phatak (Punjab)|  A day after a train mowed down over 60 Dussehra revellers, scores of people staged a sit-in on railway tracks here on Saturday, demanding action against the erring officials and train driver and seeking adequate compensation for the victims.

The protesters raised slogans against the state government and demanded action against the train driver.

One of the protesters alleged the train passed through the area at a high speed and that the driver did not slow down the train despite the presence of a large crowd.

Later, police chased away the protesters when they tried to move towards residential areas from the railway tracks.

Police have barricaded the area to prevent the protesters from reassembling.

At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching burning of Ravana effigy was run over by a train near here, officials said.

The train was coming from Jalandhar when the accident occurred at Joda Phatak near Amritsar, where at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground adjacent to the tracks.

“Why did the government not ensure proper security arrangements at the time of Dussehra festival? Why such function was allowed to take place near railway tracks?” Sujit Singh, one of protesters, said.

Another protester demanded that the victims be given adequate compensation.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Friday announced immediate ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed.

Some protesters blocked the GT Road near the train accident site. They also demanded government jobs for the kin of those killed.

A resident blamed Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu who represents the area in the assembly, for the tragedy.

“The tragic incident could have been averted, had Navjot Kaur Sidhu turned up at the venue on time and had the function not been delayed,” said Deepak who works as a painter.

He said that every year, the effigy of Ravana was burnt between 5.30 pm and 6 pm, but this year it could not happen as Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the event, “got late”. The effigy was burnt around 7 pm. “Because of darkness, the tragedy occurred,” he added.

According to villagers, the burning of Ravana effigy as part of Dussehra celebrations has been taking place at the same venue for over 20 years. But, what has been a source of joy and excitement to the young and the old for over two decades turned out to be a nightmare on Friday.

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37 trains cancelled, 16 diverted day after Amritsar tragedy

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New Delhi | The railways cancelled 37 trains and diverted 16 trains on Saturday, a day after Dussehra revellers were mowed down by a train while they were watching the burning of a Ravan effigy while standing on the tracks near Amritsar, officials said.

Sixty-one people were killed and more than 70 injured in the tragedy.

Giving details, the railways said 10 mail/express trains and 27 passenger trains were cancelled. While 16 trains were diverted and reached their destination through a different route, 18 trains were short terminated, Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said.

The route between Jalandhar and Amritsar was suspended, he said.

The railways maintains it had no information about the Dussehra function held near the tracks.

Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said in a statement that the accident occurred at a midsection between the Amritsar and Manawala stations and not at a level crossing.

“There was no information and no permission sought from us. The event took place at a place adjoining the railway land in private property,” he said.

“At midsections trains run at their assigned speeds and people are not expected to be on the tracks At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at the level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic,” he added, explaining why the railways was not alerted about the congregation by its staff.

According to Lohani, the gateman was 400 metres away at a level crossing.

If the driver had applied emergency breaks, there could have been a bigger tragedy, he said.

The train was running at assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down, the top official said.

Refusing to assign any blame, Lohani, who visited the spot at midnight, said the national transporter has been carrying out campaigns exhorting people not to trespass.

“We will take that forward,” he said.

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Railways was not intimated about Dussehra event near tracks: Lohani

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New Delhi |The railways was not intimated about a Dussehra event along the tracks that led to the deaths of at least 61 people in Amritsar, Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said in a statement.

He said that the accident occurred at a stretch between two stations — Amritsar and Manawala, and not at a level crossing.

“At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic,” he said, explaining why the railways was not alerted about the congregation by its staff.

He said that the gateman was 400 metres away at a level crossing. He also said that if the driver had applied emergency breaks, there could have been a bigger tragedy.

He said that the train was running at its assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down.

“There was no information and no permission sought from us. The event took place at a place adjoining the railway land in private property,” he said.

Refusing to assign any blame, Lohani, who visited the spot at midnight, said that the national transporter has been carrying out campaigns exhorting people not to trespass. “We will take that forward,” he said.

At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy was run over by a train near here, officials said.

The train was coming from Jalandhar when the accident occurred at Joda Phatak near Amritsar, where at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground adjacent to the tracks.

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