Ranchi (Jharkhand)/New Delhi: “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 the Adani power plant project at Godda district in Jharkhand has gathered in the last two years. The state government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Adani Group for the same in 2016 with much fanfare.
According to the social impact assessment (SIA) report of the company, 1,364 acres, spread across 10 villages of two blocks of Godda, are to be acquired for the thermal power plant, which is supposed to produce 1,600 MW of electricity. The government and the company claim that the plant is a public-purpose project with ‘zero’ displacement that will lead to generation of employment and economic development. Twenty-five per cent of total power produced will be made available to Jharkhand, they claim.
However, a recent fact-finding team of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, an umbrella network of more than 30 people’s organisations, found that the ground realities are far from the above-mentioned claims.
According to the Act, consent of at least 80% of the affected families and permission of the Gram Sabhas concerned are required for acquisition of land for private projects. But most of the Adivasi (indigenous people of mainland South Asia) and several non-adivasi landowners are opposed to the project from the beginning. In 2016 and 2017, public hearings for the SIA and environment impact assessment (EIA) were organised.
Several landowners who were opposed to the plant – alleged the fact-finding report – were “not allowed by Adani functionaries and local administration to participate in the hearings”. The report further says, quoting the affected villagers, that “people of non-affected areas were made to sit in the hearings”. In one of these meetings, the report says, when affected families protested against not being allowed to express their views, the police “misbehaved with several women and lathi-charged them”.
The SIA report of the company has several “factual and constitutional errors such as no technically skilled person in the affected villages, zero displacement, marking all villagers of affected villages as Hindus and so on”.
“It also does not take into account the impact on the sharecroppers. The report does not mention the other alternatives for the proposed project site. The report is silent on the number of jobs that would be created by this project. Also, neither the video recording of landowners giving their consent for the acquisition nor the signed consent forms are available. The rules clearly specify that affected families do not only include the land owners but also the workers and sharecroppers,” rights activist Kumar Chand Mardi, who was in the fact-finding team, told Newsclick.
The government has acquired around 500 acres in four villages. “This includes forceful acquisition of 50 acres of 40 families against their wishes. In its attempt to forcefully acquire land, the company with the support of the local police, bulldozed standing crops, several trees, burial ground and pond across 15 acres belonging to Manager Hembram and five other adivasi families of Mali village. 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 zameen mein gaad denge’). The police refused to lodge his complaint against the functionaries,” Mardi alleged.
When the people of Mali complained to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) against forceful acquisition of their land, Mardi alleged, the DC refused to take any action and instead told the people that since their land had been acquired, they should just take the compensation.
People of the affected villages claim that more than 1,000 families will be displaced if land is acquired in the 10 villages. “It will have a direct impact on their livelihoods and survival. For adivasis families also, the land is associated with their culture, history and identity, which they do not want to lose at any cost,” notes the fact-finding report.
It must be mentioned that according to Section 20 of the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act, agricultural land in Santhal Pargana area cannot be transferred or acquired for any government or private projects, barring exceptions.
According to the EIA report, 14-18 tonnes of coal will be used by the plant every year. “There is little doubt that this will severely affect the local ecosystem. The plant will need 36 MCM water per year which is supposed to be sourced from the local rainfed lifeline – Chir river. This will drain the limited source in the water-deprived district of Godda,” says the fact-finding report.
The power produced in the plant will be supplied to Bangladesh. Even though Adani Power Limited – a part of the Adani Group – is to provide at least 25% of total power to Jharkhand, its SIA report does not clearly mention the source from where the company will provide power to the state.
Jharkhand – as per its state policy – is legally entitled to buying 25% of the electricity generated by thermal power projects built within the state. But a report recently published in Scroll.in also exposed how the Jharkhand government changed its energy policy in 2016 to buy power from Adani at a higher rate which might cost the exchequer more than Rs 7,000 crore in the next 25 years.
Older agreements, says the news report, signed with existing thermal power projects allow Jharkhand to buy 12% of the electricity at a price that covers only variable costs, mostly the cost of fuel. The remaining 13% comes at a price that covers both fixed and variable costs – the cost of fuel plus the cost of building and running the project – with the actual tariff determined by the state electricity regulatory commission.
“The first stage agreement signed with Adani Power Limited in February 2016 was on similar lines – it said Jharkhand could buy 25% of the electricity based on existing regulations. But the company asked for a change in the terms in the second stage agreement. It wanted the availability of 12% electricity at purely variable costs to be made conditional on the state providing concessional coal for the project. In other words, Jharkhand would have to pay both fixed and variable costs for the entire 25% of the electricity, or supply concessional coal for the Adani project,” says the news report.
Until 2014, many state governments, including Jharkhand, enabled thermal power projects within their states to get cheap coal by recommending them to the Centre for the allotment of a captive coal mine – a mine that they could use strictly for their project. But the Supreme Court in August 2014 cancelled such discretionary allotments of coal mines, describing these as arbitrary and non-transparent. In 2015, the Centre amended the law to make auctions mandatory for coal mine allocations.
“In its correspondence with the Jharkhand government in 2016, Adani Power Limited cited this change in India’s coal mining law as the reason for seeking amendments in the agreement for the Godda project. Jharkhand’s Bharatiya Janata Party government amended the state’s energy policy on October 6, 2016, in keeping with the changes proposed by the company. The changes were also reflected in the second stage agreement that was prepared the next day itself, and formally signed by both the parties on October 21,” reports Scroll.in, based on government documents it claims to have accessed.
It is clear from the inquiry that several laws have been grossly violated by this project till now. “The Adani project is yet another example of government prioritising corporate interests at the cost of blatant exploitation of people and their resources. It is not surprising that most of the documents related to the acquisition for this project are not available on the district administration’s website, as mandated by the act,” alleged the fact-finding report.