A sinister nexus between the state police (Jharkand, a state ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party,BJP) and the Modi regime is revealed as the illegal acquisition of land by the NTPC in Barakagaon, as this acquisition has been coercively undertaken without the approval, statutorily mandated, by the Gram Sabha.
Image: Hindustan Times
The protesting farmers and their representatives have told Sabrangindia that they are willing to lay down their lives but will not give up rich and arable land. They say also that the Gram Sabha is totally opposed to the acquisition. In the brutal police firing that took place between 4 a.m. and 6.30 a.m. on October 1, five tribal farmers have died. The Government has released only four dead bodies but the bodies of three more farmers are still unaccounted for. The whole area has been cordoned off by 7 battallions of armed police, Rapid Action Force and paramilitary personnel. Section 144 is in force and what is happening inside the area is not fully known. This part of Hazaribagh district in Jharkand is functioning as if in a state of emergency.
P.P.Verma, convenor of the Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas and the Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum, Ranchi speaking to Sabrangindia has strongly condemned the brute police firing and vowed to support the just struggle of the Barakagaon farmers. "Jharkandis will not hesitate to stand beside them against this repressive regime, he says. “The firing by the administration on unarmed people is worthy of severe condemnation and any Government that kills its own citizens has no right to exist. The time has come for the Government of the day to realize that forcible acquisition of land from farmers is not possible and Power Plants that are built on the rich lands of farmers, have no place and neither is this sustainable development,” Verma adds.
The Gram Sabha will be victorious in the end and NTPC will have to pack up and go, say protestors. Residents have been protesting the acquisition of land by the NTPC (formerly, the National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd) for their coal mines. The public-sector firm had proposed to start mining coal in the Karanpura valley, in the east Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, over an area of 47 square kilometers.
The land acquisition for the project began in 2004, though slow progress was made on the proposed mines in what is claimed to be one of the largest coal blocks of Asia. Residents and farmers have resisted the acquisition of their land in an agriculturally rich zone, which has three annual crop harvests, employing the villagers throughout the year, and generated agricultural revenue upwards of Rs 300 crore.
The NTPC only broke ground this year, after successfully acquiring about 2,500 acres of land from the forest department, out of a proposed 17,000 acres. The Forest Rights Act, 2006, however, requires approval from 70% of the members of the Gram Sabha members in order to acquire forest land which has not been obtained.
On October 11, 2004, NTPC was allocated mines by the Government of India; the Pakri Barawadih Coal Block in Hazaribagh district containing an estimated 1600 MT of coal lay beneath the allocated land. The total land area was 12000 acres, covering 40 villages and 2500 acres of forest land. Strong opposition to the land acquisition started at the time, twelve years ago, by the farmers whose land fell under this allocation. The farming area was a multi-cropping area and the fertile land was used by the farmers as their sole source of livelihood. At no cost the farmers were willing to give their land.
On January 6, 2007, the government announced that a Public Hearing would take place at 11 am to resolve the issue. Instead of adhering to the announcement, the Administration stealthily held the Public Hearing the previous night at 11 pm. When the farmers came to know of this, some of the farmers had even attended the illegal hearing, voicing their total opposition to the proposed land acquisition. Predictably, false cases were filed in the courts on some of the farmers for this opposition. Shockingly, the outcome of the Public Hearing that was put out by the Government showed that the farmers had given their consent which was a total lie. The harassment of the opposing farmers continued.
An interesting event took place on June 23, 2011 whereby the Chatti Bariatu Coal Block was de-allocated by the Government of India but in November 2011 the Hazaribagh District Administration transferred the said Coal Block back to the NTPC!
Under the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, 70% consent was required from the Gram Sabha which procedure was also not followed. Also, under the Forest Rights Act passed in 2006, acquiring of Forest Land laid down certain conditions which, too, protesting farmers have alleged, the NTPC did not follow.
It was in these circumstances that, in 2016, the NTPC claimed to have acquired 3000 acres of forest land and 435 acres of farmers' land and decided to go ahead with the mining project within the area that fell under forest land. Several farmers and the local leadership opposed this start of mining operations for which farmers and some leaders were even jailed for over two months or more. These criminal cases are still pending in courts even as the harassment continues, it is alleged.