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Environment Dalit Bahujan Adivasi

Under the shadow of coal mining

Jharkhand Adivasis struggling to survive amidst rampant coal dumping, forcible land acquisition and displacement; environmental concerns and people’s health ignored with impunity

Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 28 Jun 2021

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Here’s an exclusive photo-feature by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi tracing the lives of Adivasis in Hazaribagh, people who are forced to live under the shadow of coal mining. Protests have fallen on deaf ears, and the shameless plunder of natural resources is scarring the lives of people in the region. 


Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Hazaribagh in Jharkhand is a land of contrast. Whereas on one hand, tribal women paint beautiful murals called Sohrai and Khovar on the mud walls of their houses across several villages, on the other hand, blackness envelopes the coal-mining areas of the district. The road leading to Barkagaon block from Hazaribagh, a distance of 25 km, offers a view of green Sal trees. But after a point it gives way to sooty darkness.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

A bike ride to the opencast Punkri Barwadih coal mine area of the NTPC in Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh reveals a desolate landscape. Coal dumped on both sides of the road greets the eyes. The road is covered with a thick black layer. The Annual Report 2019-20 of the District Mineral Foundation Trust Hazaribag says mining is on, in four blocks. Besides Barkagaon, these are Churchu, Dadi and Keredari. It also points out that 362 villages are directly or indirectly affected by mining.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

A resident of Punkri Barwadih village in Hazaribagh’s Barkagaon block said on the condition of anonymity that locals are facing a lot of issues due to coal mining in the area. Seen here is a conveyor belt meant for transporting coal from the Punkri Barwadih mine area to the railway siding in Benedag, a distance of about 23 km.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Coal is still the major driver of India’s energy target, accounting for almost 70 percent of the share. The North Karanpura coalfield spread over four districts of Jharkhand (Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Chatra and Latehar) has huge coal deposits. The mines here are open cast as well as underground. In Hazaribagh, villages like Jugra and Chirudih have been in national news for massive protests against coal dumping, forcible land acquisition and displacement.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Residents of villages like Itij and Chapakala allege the demolition of their houses by the company with the help of the police and the district administration around January-February this year. Sabita Devi from Chapakala village said houses have been razed due to the construction of the coal mining belt. “We are somehow living here. There is so much pollution all around us. Nothing is being done to protect the environment,” she said.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Itij is an affected village. Tuleshwar Ganju is a resident of Itij in Keredari block of Hazaribagh. He is a Ganju tribal. According to him, many people work in the company mostly on a contract basis. “Our sacred grove is getting impacted due to mining. But if the company goes away, how will we earn a living?” he questioned.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

The entire Barkagaon block is heaped with coal. Nearby Itij village, a person called Sukhen Sao informed that he is not an Adivasi. But he said that there are Adivasi villages where the Ganju tribe resides and they are being heavily impacted by mining. People are being told to leave to make space for more coal dumping, Sao added.


 


Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Coal mining is causing severe environmental damage not only in Hazaribagh, but in several other districts of Jharkhand like Chatra, Palamu, Rajmahal, Dhanbad and Ranchi. India’s commercial coal mining operations started in 1774. However, it remains to be seen how long coal will play a dominant role in India’s energy sector. Already, coal mining is severely impacting not only the environment, but also the Adivasi way of living dependent on forests and clean water sources for survival.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Geeta Devi is a local Ganju Adivasi woman. She said that the community’s sacred grove situated on a hill is being impacted due to mining. “The grove is almost gone. We worship in the hills where we have our sacred site. Our lands have been taken away. But we do not want to leave the place and go to Barkagaon town.”


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Imam from Dari Kala village alleged that a lot of raiyats have lost their lands in Hazaribagh, locals have been victimised and even religious places impacted. Hazaribagh-based social activist Mithilesh Dangi had created a coal producer company, the Punkri Barwadih Thermal Power Producer Company way back in 2007 with local participation. Initially, there was a huge movement here against land acquisition. It was on till 2010, and after that, it lost some of its steam. But protests will again start, he added.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Harijan Jagarnath Bhuiyan, who resides in this colony in Barkagaon block, said pollution is a major problem. But the NTPC claimed that the pollution level is within the norm specified for mining in an email reply to the journalist. “If we are chased away from here, we have to go. There are 30-35 houses here. If we are displaced, we will be shifted to Dhenga village in Barkagaon. The company has built a resettlement colony there,” Bhuiyan said.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

According to the NTPC, mining requires land acquisition. Compensation as well as resettlement and rehabilitation benefits are being extended as per the state government directives in accordance with the law. No displacement is being done before settlement benefits have been provided. Houses are not razed until and unless people have been shifted. Locals, however, have a different thing to say.

*This photo feature has been produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting

Related:

Unmindful mining will bring permanent pandemic

NAPM demands that Centre immediately revoke the commercial auction of 41 coal blocks

Satyagraha with 12 hour fasting by Prafulla Samantara

 

Under the shadow of coal mining

Jharkhand Adivasis struggling to survive amidst rampant coal dumping, forcible land acquisition and displacement; environmental concerns and people’s health ignored with impunity

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Here’s an exclusive photo-feature by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi tracing the lives of Adivasis in Hazaribagh, people who are forced to live under the shadow of coal mining. Protests have fallen on deaf ears, and the shameless plunder of natural resources is scarring the lives of people in the region. 


Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Hazaribagh in Jharkhand is a land of contrast. Whereas on one hand, tribal women paint beautiful murals called Sohrai and Khovar on the mud walls of their houses across several villages, on the other hand, blackness envelopes the coal-mining areas of the district. The road leading to Barkagaon block from Hazaribagh, a distance of 25 km, offers a view of green Sal trees. But after a point it gives way to sooty darkness.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

A bike ride to the opencast Punkri Barwadih coal mine area of the NTPC in Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh reveals a desolate landscape. Coal dumped on both sides of the road greets the eyes. The road is covered with a thick black layer. The Annual Report 2019-20 of the District Mineral Foundation Trust Hazaribag says mining is on, in four blocks. Besides Barkagaon, these are Churchu, Dadi and Keredari. It also points out that 362 villages are directly or indirectly affected by mining.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

A resident of Punkri Barwadih village in Hazaribagh’s Barkagaon block said on the condition of anonymity that locals are facing a lot of issues due to coal mining in the area. Seen here is a conveyor belt meant for transporting coal from the Punkri Barwadih mine area to the railway siding in Benedag, a distance of about 23 km.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Coal is still the major driver of India’s energy target, accounting for almost 70 percent of the share. The North Karanpura coalfield spread over four districts of Jharkhand (Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Chatra and Latehar) has huge coal deposits. The mines here are open cast as well as underground. In Hazaribagh, villages like Jugra and Chirudih have been in national news for massive protests against coal dumping, forcible land acquisition and displacement.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Residents of villages like Itij and Chapakala allege the demolition of their houses by the company with the help of the police and the district administration around January-February this year. Sabita Devi from Chapakala village said houses have been razed due to the construction of the coal mining belt. “We are somehow living here. There is so much pollution all around us. Nothing is being done to protect the environment,” she said.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Itij is an affected village. Tuleshwar Ganju is a resident of Itij in Keredari block of Hazaribagh. He is a Ganju tribal. According to him, many people work in the company mostly on a contract basis. “Our sacred grove is getting impacted due to mining. But if the company goes away, how will we earn a living?” he questioned.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

The entire Barkagaon block is heaped with coal. Nearby Itij village, a person called Sukhen Sao informed that he is not an Adivasi. But he said that there are Adivasi villages where the Ganju tribe resides and they are being heavily impacted by mining. People are being told to leave to make space for more coal dumping, Sao added.


 


Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Coal mining is causing severe environmental damage not only in Hazaribagh, but in several other districts of Jharkhand like Chatra, Palamu, Rajmahal, Dhanbad and Ranchi. India’s commercial coal mining operations started in 1774. However, it remains to be seen how long coal will play a dominant role in India’s energy sector. Already, coal mining is severely impacting not only the environment, but also the Adivasi way of living dependent on forests and clean water sources for survival.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Geeta Devi is a local Ganju Adivasi woman. She said that the community’s sacred grove situated on a hill is being impacted due to mining. “The grove is almost gone. We worship in the hills where we have our sacred site. Our lands have been taken away. But we do not want to leave the place and go to Barkagaon town.”


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Imam from Dari Kala village alleged that a lot of raiyats have lost their lands in Hazaribagh, locals have been victimised and even religious places impacted. Hazaribagh-based social activist Mithilesh Dangi had created a coal producer company, the Punkri Barwadih Thermal Power Producer Company way back in 2007 with local participation. Initially, there was a huge movement here against land acquisition. It was on till 2010, and after that, it lost some of its steam. But protests will again start, he added.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

Harijan Jagarnath Bhuiyan, who resides in this colony in Barkagaon block, said pollution is a major problem. But the NTPC claimed that the pollution level is within the norm specified for mining in an email reply to the journalist. “If we are chased away from here, we have to go. There are 30-35 houses here. If we are displaced, we will be shifted to Dhenga village in Barkagaon. The company has built a resettlement colony there,” Bhuiyan said.


 

Photo by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi 

According to the NTPC, mining requires land acquisition. Compensation as well as resettlement and rehabilitation benefits are being extended as per the state government directives in accordance with the law. No displacement is being done before settlement benefits have been provided. Houses are not razed until and unless people have been shifted. Locals, however, have a different thing to say.

*This photo feature has been produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting

Related:

Unmindful mining will bring permanent pandemic

NAPM demands that Centre immediately revoke the commercial auction of 41 coal blocks

Satyagraha with 12 hour fasting by Prafulla Samantara

 

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