Jharkhand: Construction Begins in Adani’s Godda Plant, Villagers Dejected
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“The work on the Adani plant is going in full swing. There was no question of stalling of any work as the government is backing up the project completely. The Chinese company has arrived and over a thousand workers are on the ground. Meanwhile, thousands have lost their lands despite rallying against the administration consistently year after year,” Vivek from the Jharkhand Jan Adhikar Mahasabha says while talking about the Adani plant in Godda.
The company hopes to make its 1,600 megawatt power project operational from 2022. In order to expand its energy generation process, the company has set up the plant by forcefully acquiring over a thousand acres of land spread across 10 villages of two blocks of Godda. Many on the ground suggest that this includes forceful acquisition of 50 acres of 40 families against their wishes. Moreover, in its attempt to forcefully acquire land, the company with the support of the local police, bulldozed standing crops, several trees, burial ground and ponds across 15 acres.
The administration further aided the process of “ease of doing business” for the Adanis earlier in February this year, when the project became the first standalone power project in India to get the status and benefits of a Special Economic Zone. For this, the commerce ministry amended power-related guidelines for Special Economic Zones earlier this year. The ministry amended the guidelines to explicitly state: “No single stand-alone power plant will be permitted to be set up in an SEZ in which there would be no other units.” This effectively meant a stand-alone power project could not be considered an SEZ.
Post the declaration of the project as an SEZ, the villagers, who had been fighting for their rights for years, are feeling dejected. Speaking to NewsClick, Sonal, a petitioner in the case against the group said, “As the work is in full swing, many villagers are feeling intimidated by the scale of the operations of the firm. Earlier, a lot of people had protested as the project is affecting over a thousand tribal households. We are still fighting the case legally and we hope for a renewed momentum on the ground.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Ramjeevan Paswan, a tribal from Godda said, “No one could do anything for us. So many of us have no other alternative. We feel dejected because of the lack of support from the government. None of our efforts are yielding any gains, I lost over one bigha land and many others like me were affected.”
The process of making the project a Special Economic Zone was preceded by a ruthless process of forceful acquisition of land and a crackdown on the protesting tribals. While acquiring the land from the villagers, it was claimed that the Adani Power plant would be a public purpose unit. But the claim was not entirely true as the power produced would be sent to Bangladesh as mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Adani Power, the Government of Jharkhand, the Government of India and the Bangladesh government in 2016. Out of the total power produced, 25% was to be made available to Jharkhand. However, with the declaration of the project as SEZ it has become clear that the state is no longer entitled to the electricity generated from the plant.
Sonal added, “The villagers were tricked into the acquisition process. Legally speaking, the forceful acquisition was problematic on multiple fronts. It even flouted the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act which prohibits lease, gift, or selling of the land which the Adanis have acquired. Not just this, the Land Acquisition Act has a wider definition to include those who are affected, but in this case, only landowners are being considered as affected by the state government.” He added, “The Impact Assessment reports were also flawed as they underplayed the number of people affected by the project to only 845 families, while in reality, the number of affected persons run into thousands.”
Previously, a table survey was allegedly done by Adani Powers - which took "some locals into confidence and prepared a fabricated report". Explaining the reasons behind this allegation, Chinta Mani Sahu - who has lost his land and challenged the acquisition process in the Jharkhand High Court - said, "The survey was done by AFC - a nodal agency of Adani Powers. The company showed in its report that adivasis (who mainly belong to the Santhal tribes in this region) were living in the villages where not a single tribal lives, while non-Adivasis were shown as living in areas which are entirely inhabited by tribals. As per the rule, the next step - which is 'Jan Sunwai' (public hearing) - was held on December 6, 2016, based on the "bogus" assessment report. When people protested, they were lathi-charged. A strong police force of around 500 cops even allegedly entered nearby houses and thrashed whosoever they found. The men in uniform along with company officials also allegedly threatened people against filing complaints.”
Angry with the condition of exporting electricity, which has been produced in Jharkhand at the cost of the lives and livelihood of thousands of people, the villagers had also filed a case in the Jharkhand High Court to challenge the acquisition, the hearing of which is still pending in the court of law.
NewsClick has previously reported how “forceful” acquisition of land, “severe violation” of processes set by the Land Acquisition Act 2013, “bulldozing” standing crops of farmers, “lying” to people about the potential benefits, “intimidating” affected people with “police brutalities”, “lawsuits” are among several accolades that the Adani power plant project at Godda district in Jharkhand has gathered in the last two years. One of the biggest hurdles to the project was opposition from residents of the villages where it was seeking to acquire land but with the operations on and no state response, the villagers are losing hope. However, they are not going to stall efforts to get justice for the land which has been lost.
Activists are now resorting to a two-pronged approach to ensure social justice. As the case is pending in the court, new Jan Sabhas are being scheduled to take place later in the month. Vivek said, “We have planned public meetings to devise strategies to counter the expansion of Adani group’s plants. Two major meetings are scheduled for September 25 and 26 in Porahat and Godda block Jan Sabhas, post which we will come up with a fresh plan of action.”
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