The BJP-led state government of Jharkhand is seemingly hell bent on selling off its land to the corporate giant Adanis, but the villagers from Jharkhand are putting up a brave fight against the forceful acquisition.
The state government, in a bid to strengthen its pro-industry outlook, had signed an MoU with the Adani Group in 2016 to set up a power plant in Godda district. The coal-fired thermal plant that it hopes to build is proposed to generate 1,600 megawatts of electricity. In order to become fully functional, the Adanis want to acquire over 1,364 acres of land, spread across 10 villages of two blocks in Godda. Interestingly, the company plans to export all the electricity from the Godda plant to Bangladesh, although as the host state, Jharkhand is legally entitled to buying 25 per cent of this electricity. Whilst the government and the Adanis claim that this plant is a public-purpose project with ‘zero’ displacement that will lead to generation of employment and economic development, reality on the ground appears strikingly dissimilar.
A recent fact-finding report by members of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, an umbrella network of more than 30 people’s organisations, found that this project is riddled with forceful acquisition of land, severe violation of processes set by the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. According to the Act, consent of at least 80 per cent of the affected families and permission from the concerned Gram Sabhas are required for acquisition of land for private projects. But, most of the Adivasi and several non-Adivasi landowners are opposed to the project from the beginning.
Speaking to Newsclick, Vivek from Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha explained, “Alongside the procedural violations, an atmosphere of fear is being created in the minds of the tribal population. Until now, forceful land acquisition of four villages has already taken place, the population in these villages is largely tribal, dependent on land.”
Shedding light on the tactics used by the corporate giant, he said, “The crops of the farmers were destroyed using poplane machine. Besides, some villagers are being scared off with the help of false cases filed against them.”
While forcefully acquiring land of Motiya village’s Ramjeevan Paswan, Adani functionaries threatened him that he would be buried in his land if he refused to give it to the company (“Zameen nahi di to ameen mein gaad denge.”), he claims. The police have refused to lodge his complaint.
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The locals allege that the state machinery is brushing the issue aside to benefit the corporate giant, and is, therefore, complicit in the crimes against the local population. The land acquired in the four villages spans across 500 acres, and has already put the lives of 40 families on the line. People from the affected villages claim that more than 1,000 families will be displaced if the land is acquired in all the 10 villages.
In its attempt to forcefully acquire land, the company, with the support of the local police, allegedly bulldozed standing crops, several trees, burial ground and ponds across 15 acres of land of Manager Hembram and five other Adivasi families of Mali village. When the people of Mali complained to the deputy commissioner (DC) against the forceful acquisition of their land without their consent, the DC reportedly refused to take any action and instead told them that since their lands has been acquired, they should just take the compensation. Enraged by the developments in the process, the locals are asserting that it must be immediately stopped.
The fact-finding report exposed the extent of the manipulations by the power plant in the process of public hearings by the Gram Sabha. In 2016 and 2017, public hearings for social impact assessment (SIA) and environment impact assessment (EIA) were organised. Several landowners who were opposed to the plant were allegedly not allowed by Adani Group officials and local administration to participate in the hearings. The locals claimed that at the entry of the venue, they were asked if they are ready to give up their land. If they refused they were shunned away by the organisers. In some instances, “Adani cards” or green/yellow cards were allegedly issued to the locals to identify people who are willing or unwilling to decide actions taken against them.
Several residents of the Motiya and Ranganiya villages pointed out that in a public hearing conducted in June, nearly 2,000 police personnel were present at the hearing. Locals allege that the police started a lathi charge, fired teargas shells, and even entered the homes of villagers, beating some up.
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It must be mentioned that according to section 20 of the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act, which applies to the agricultural land in Santhal Pargana area cannot be transferred or acquired for any government or private projects, barring a few exceptions or for public purposes.
The Jharkhand government, by grossly flouting the law, is thriving upon the repression it is inflicting on its people in the name of “development”. Alarmingly, no documents relating to this project are available on the district administration's website.
Amid the concerns of loss of land and livelihood of the tribal population, the project is also set to have adverse repercussions for the environment. According to the EIA report, 14-18 MT coal will be used by the plant every year, which will severely affect the local ecosystem. The plant will need 36 MCM water per year which is supposed to be sourced from the local rain-fed lifeline, Chir river. This will drain the limited source in the water-deprived district of Godda.
Perhaps, to ensure humongous profits to the Adanis, the BJP government had, in 2016, changed its energy policy in 2016 to buy power from the Adani Group at a higher rate, which is likely to cost the exchequer more than Rs. 7000 crores in the next 25 years.