Skip to main content

Probe sought into "fraudulent" corporate transfer of Chhattisgarh tribal land

By Dr Manohar Chauhan*
Amnesty International India, a premier human rights organization, has demanded probe into the alleged grabbing of tribal land by two private companies, TRN Energy and Mahavir Energy Coal Beneficiation Limited (MECBL), in Gharghoda sub-division in Chhatisgarh. Addressing media in Raipur, senior Amnesty activists said, on October 16, as many 85 adivasi villagers in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, called upon the state police to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their lands by people acting as agents of these two private companies.
Over a year ago, around 81 adivasi villagers in Raigarh filed criminal complaints under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 alleging unlawful dispossession of their lands in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Special Police Station. However, despite repeated pleas by the villagers, the police refused to register First Information Report (FIR), a first step in criminal investigations.
On October 16, adivasi villagers appealed to the Superintendent of Police, Raigarh, to register FIR based on their complaints. After waiting for over a year for police to launch an investigation, the villagers approached the Superintendent of Police using Section 154(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows for such an appeal if an officer in charge of a police station refuses to record information pertaining to the commission of a cognizable offence.
“It is unfortunate that the Chhattisgarh police failed to look into the allegations made by the adivasi villagers and refused to register FIR on their complaints. These adivasi men and women have a constitutional right to access justice, which has been denied for far too long. They are facing grave human rights abuse and it is the duty of the police to protect them and prosecute those who are responsible for the wrongful dispossession of their land,” said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty India.
Last year, on June 14, 2017, 81 adivasi women and men tried to file FIR at the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Special Police Station in Raigarh, alleging that they had been forced into selling their land – as a result of threats, intimidation, coercion and misinformation – to agents of TRN Energy and Mahavir Energy Coal Beneficiation Limited (MECBL), operating in collusion with local land registration officials.
The police refused to register FIR on the grounds that in 2016, the villagers had filed civil cases before the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Gharghoda village, which were still under judicial consideration. However, there has been limited progress in the civil cases, which have been pending for over 2 years now. According to Indian law, an affected person has access to both civil and criminal remedies simultaneously. Hence there is no bar on registering FIR on complaints filed by the villagers.
Pavitri Manjhi, the Adivasi Sarpanch of the Bhengari Gram Panchayat and Co-Convenor of the Adivasi Dalit Mazdoor Kissan Sangharsh(ADMKS) and one of the victims of fraudulent transfer of land, said that she has been facing harassment for her peaceful activism from the Company. Pavitri reported harassment to the police but no FIR was registered However, determined to stand up for the rights of her community, she said, “We are struggling, we are fighting for our land and we will continue to fight for the same.”
At the press meet, Degree Prashad Chouhan, co-convenor of the Adivasi Dalit Mazdoor Kissan Sangharsh (ADMKS), Raigarh said that despite consistent efforts and struggle from last three years, there has been no action from the administration and police on the complaints that they have filed in the SDM, Gharghoda in 2016 and before SCST welfare(special) Police Station, Raigarh in 2017.
Kishore Narayanan, Advocate practicing in Bilaspur High Court and fighting for the tribals in the different Court said, “Taking the advantage of illiteracy and ignorance at the community people on the protective laws i.e., POA Act, 1989, Section 170B and 165(6) of Chhatigarh Land Revenue Code, 1959, PESA, 1996 etc. both these two companies played with laws and collected signatures of the tribal.” In many cases, the tribals had not been paid the amount mentioned in the sale deeds, or had been paid only part of it. Many of them paid much below the market value, they had been first told that only part of their land would be sold, but later they found that all their land had been registered as sold.” He further said.
The press meet was told, under international human rights law and standards, states have an obligation to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent on decisions that affect them. This right is recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
---
*Senior Campaigner, Amnesty International India

Comments

TRENDING

NYT seeks UN intervention, says: Modi turning autocratic, talks absurd on Kashmir

By Our Representative
In what appears to be a scathing reply to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized “New York Times” (NYT) article on Mahatma Gandhi titled “Why India and the World need Gandhi”, NYT’s powerful editorial board has said, Modi “didn’t address” the Kashmir issue in his United Nations (UN) speech, calling his assertion at the Houston rally a few days – that revoking the constitutional clause on Kashmiri autonomy meant “people there have got equal rights” with other Indians – “absurd”.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Why nobody objected to Gautam Gambhir, Sunny Deol in t-shirt, jean?: Activists

By Our Representative
Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan’s excitement on their first day as MPs was overshadowed by a barrage of sexism over their ‘non- sanskari’ outfits, a group of civil society activists have said in a statement. According to Aarushi Nigam, Divya Kaushik, Riya Sharma, Ruman Ganguly, and Anulekha Agarwal, both Bengali actors and first-time MPs "were certainly excited to take them on when they posted pictures from their new workplace on social media."
Hit by misogynistic comments, the activists say, "Their choice of workwear – jeans and a white button-down shirt for Mimi, a wine-coloured peplum suit for Nusrat – was the first and last word on their political competence for many."
“You’re not on vacation”, “they have mistaken Parliament for Kolkata’s Nicco Park or City Centre”, “this is not a photo studio, this is a place where you should fight for people’s rights and legislate”, “keep some respect towards your Bengali society” were some of the &quo…

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.