Jharkhand: BJP government subverts another law to benefit Adani

The BJP-led Jharkhand government is subverting several laws to ensure tribal land can be acquired easily for the Adani thermal power plant project at Godda district in Jharkhand

Jharkhand: BJP government subverts another law to benefit Adani
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Ashlin Mathew

The BJP-led Jharkhand government is subverting several laws to ensure tribal land can be acquired easily for the Adani thermal power plant project at Godda district in Jharkhand. The power ministry is being handled by the Chief Minister Raghubar Das, who is also in-charge of the Finance ministry.

What has now come to light is the government had passed a Jharkhand Water, Gas and Drainage Pipeline ordinance in 2018 without any discussion or notice. In fact, it remained unnoticed till a couple of days ago. According to the ordinance, the government planned to acquire large tracts of land for transportation of water, gas or drainage from one place to another. “The pipelines maybe laid by the state or the corporation and wherever the state has to acquire these lands, it can do so by notification in the Official Gazette, by declaring its intention to acquire the right of user,” states the Ordinance.

Several activists and local residents have questioned the time of the ordinance and wanted to know why it couldn’t wait till the Assembly session. A case is set to be filed at the Jharkhand High Court this week.

This is not all. Initially, the company had stated that they would take water for the power plant from the River Cheer. “This is a seasonal, rain-fed river. People in this region depend on this river for irrigation. How else will their crops survive?” questions Vivek Kumar, who was a part of the fact-finding team. He goes on to point out that Godda is an acutely water-starved region.

“Now, the government has stated that the power plant would also get water from Ganga, which is almost 50 kilometers away. This water would be stored at Sunder Dam in Godda. When the dam was built in the late 1970s, almost 10 villages got submerged, but they have not been rehabilitated until now. With more water coming in, the submergence area has to be recalculated and an environment assessment has to be done. The government hasn’t done any of this,” points out Mary Hansda of Hasa Aur Bhasha Jagao Sangathan, which had organised a protest march against the atrocities committed by Adani Power Plant employees. There is also a discussion of Adani’s company building a port at Sahibganj through where the Ganga flows, says sources.

Jharkhand: BJP government subverts another law to benefit Adani

“According to the company’s social impact assessment report of the company, 1,364 acres of land, spread across 10 villages in two blocks of Godda district, are to be acquired for the thermal power plant. The plant is to produce 1600 MW of electricity. Both the government and the company officials claim that this is a public-purpose project with zero displacement, which is far from the truth. All of the power generated from here is going to Bangladesh,” says Chintamani Sahoo of Azadi Bachao Aandolan. He has been at the forefront of the struggle against the Adani power plant.

The company’s report states that with the building of the power plant, there would be considerable economic development and employment generated, which is being countered by Sahoo, who says that there would only be displacement and loss of livelihood.

According to Sahoo, the violations are as follows:

1) The land has been reportedly acquired without any prior notification or consent. According to the Santal Pargana Tenancy Act, no land can be transferred. Even the clearance stated by the Environment Ministry states that the land laws of the state must be followed. The company built walls around land they wanted to acquire and then people were forced to give consent. Even then, the compensation has not reached these families.

2) Adani Power Limited has allegedly acquired community land without consent from the Gram Sabha, as is required by the law. In fact, the Gram Sabha met and refused to give permission. Community land includes burial grounds, water sources such as ponds and grazing land.

3) At the public hearing, locals were not reportedly admitted. Instead, labourers were brought from nearby villages and only those with pre-distributed tickets were allowed entry. The government did not even intimate the local residents. As per villagers, more than 500 policemen were deployed at the venue of this public hearing.

4) The ‘Social Impact Assessment of the company states that no families will be displaced, which is not true as more than 4,000 will lose their livelihood and will have to be rehabilitated. The SIA goes on to add that there are no residential dwellings in the area when in reality houses are just beside the land being acquired.

5) According to Chapter 4 of Jharkhand Land Acquisition Rules, all the processes, including of the consent, must be video recorded. However, such a video is not available.

6) The Jharkhand Energy policy states that 25% of power produced must be made available to the state. Initially, the SIA documents show that this 25% would be made available to the state, but later in the ‘Environment Impact Assessment’ document, the entire power would be exported to Bangladesh.

7) There is no public purpose to this project and all of the land being acquired is agricultural land. According to the provisions of Jharkhand Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, private land can be acquired for the benefit of the public at large. But, here it is Bangladesh that is benefitting. Moreover, consent of 80% of the affected families is required and that too has not been obtained.

Godda, which lies to the north-east of Jharkhand, near Bihar, is home to the Rajmahal coalfield, from where the coal is taken to the Farakka and Kahalgaon Super Thermal Power Station since 1990s. Even then, the district has not been fully electrified. According to the 2011 Census, only 14% of rural households in Godda district are electrified and the majority still uses kerosene.

Last month, activists of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM) had submitted a memorandum along with a report on the ground realities to the Governor Draupadi Murmu. But, there has been silence.

Queries were sent to both the Jharkhand government and the Adani Power officials. The story will be updated when they send in their responses.

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