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Tribals' land right cancelled to "benefit" Adani Group-supported coal mining project in Chhattisgarh: Report

By Our Representative
In a move without any precedence, the Chhattisgarh government has cancelled the right of the tribals over land, formally given to them by the state authorities under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) after the gram sabha of the village, to which the land belonged, formally approved of it.
This was reportedly done in order to “benefit” a coalmining project in which the powerful Adani Group, close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a partner.
The matter concerns Ghatbarra village of Surguja district, where the state government wants to facilitate coal mining of Prasa East and Kete Besan coal block, allocated to Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVUNL) and Adani Minerals Private Limited.
Passing its order cancelling the tribals’ right over the land they were allocated, the state government stated in its order of January 8 that the villagers had been “using” their legal rights over the forest land to “stop work of mining in their village, which falls in the Parsa East and Kete Besan coal block.”
Reporting on the development, Nitin Sethi, top environmental journalist, says, “It is the first such order to come to light across the country where community rights of tribals have been summarily cancelled after being granted through the process laid down in the FRA.”
According to Sethi, “The FRA does not provide for revocation of either community or individual land rights once granted under the law. The law provides only for the government diverting the forest land for some other purpose after prior informed consent of the tribals through their gram sabha.”

Tribal rights under FRA

He adds, “Under the FRA tribals are empowered to claim individual and community rights over forestlands they have traditionally lived on… Under the FRA, the gram sabha is the only authority empowered to decide the future of traditional tribal lands.”
The gram sabha of Bhatbarra approved the right of the tribals for the land in September 3, 2013, after which they were handed over the lands by the state government, says the report.
And when the village became aware that the coal block could remain susceptible to miningin October 2014 the village gram sabha of Ghatbarra, along with 19 other villages, formally passed a resolution opposing the mining in their lands, it adds.
The Government of India nod giving clearance to divert the land for mining in 2012 without settling tribal rights is reported to have become the main reason for the state government to hand over the land for mining setting aside the tribals’ right over their land.
The state government order of January 8 said, “Because the land had been given in 2012 to the company for mining, it no longer classified as forestland in 2013 when it was given to tribals under the FRA.”
This was done, says Sethi, despite the fact that in 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) “cancelled the forest clearance noting that the environment ministry had not looked at the impact of coal mining on biodiversity in the region including presence of protected species such as the elephant.”

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