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Jharkhand govt's "forced" land acquisition for Adanis' zero displacement power plant

Yogesh Hembram: One of those who gave testimony before the fact-finding committee
By Siraj Dutta*
With much fanfare, the Jharkhand government signed an MoU with the Adani Group in 2016 to setup a power plant in Godda district. A recent fact-finding visit of members of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, an umbrella network of more than 30 people’s organisations, found that this project has gathered several accolades in the last two years - forceful acquisition of land, severe violation of processes set by land acquisition Act, 2013, bulldozing standing crops of farmers, lying to people about the potential benefits, intimidating affected people with police brutalities, lawsuits and so on.
According to the social impact assessment report of the company, 1,364 acres of land, spread across 10 villages of two blocks of Godda, are to be acquired for the thermal power plant. The plant is to produce 1600 MW of electricity. The government and the company claim that this plant is a public-purpose project with ‘zero’ displacement that will lead to generation of employment and economic development. About 25% of total power produced will be made available to Jharkhand.
The ground realities are far from these claims. According to the land acquisition Act, consent of at least 80% of affected families and permission of the concerned Gram Sabhas are required for acquisition of land for private projects. But most of the adivasi and several non-adivasi landowners are opposed to the project from the beginning. In 2016 and 2017, public hearings for social impact assessment (SIA) and environment impact assessment (EIA) were organised.
Several landowners who were opposed to the plant were not allowed by Adani functionaries and local administration to participate in the hearings. The affected villagers also claim that people of non-affected areas were made to sit in the hearings. In one of these meetings, when affected families had protested against not being allowed to express their views, the police had misbehaved with several women and lathi charged at them.
Others who represented before the committee: Manager Hembram, Ramjeevan Paswan, Radhe Pandit
The social impact assessment 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. It must be mentioned that the Act clearly specifies that affected families do not only include the land owners but also the workers and sharecroppers.
The government has acquired around 500 acres of land in four villages. This includes forceful acquisition of 50 acres of land 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 of land of 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.
When the people of Mali complained to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) against the forceful acquisition of their land without their consent, the DC refused to take any action and instead told the people that since their lands had been acquired, they should just take the compensation. People of the affected villages claim that more than 1000 families will be displaced if land is acquired in all the ten villages.
It will have a direct impact on their livelihoods and survival. Also, for adivasis families, the land is associated with their culture, history and identity, which they do not want to lose at any cost. 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 a few exceptions.
According to the environment impact assessment report, 14-18 MT 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 up the limited source in the water-deprived district of Godda.
The power produced in the plant will be supplied to Bangladesh. Even though Adani company is to provide at least 25 percent of total power to Jharkhand, its SIA report does not clearly mention the source from where the company will provide power to the state. A recent news report also exposed how Jharkhand government changed its energy policy in 2016 to buy power from the Adani company at a higher rate which might cost the exchequer more than Rs 7,000 crore in the next 25 years.
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. Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, on behalf of all the constituent organisations and activists, demands the following:
  • Implementation of the illegal project be immediately stopped, acquisition of land for the plant be stopped and illegally acquired land be given back.
  • Since this project has violated several constitutional provisions and laws, a judicial inquiry of the project be undertaken and legal action be taken against the Adani company and responsible officials for the exploitation of people
  • All affected families to be compensated for the loss in crops and livelihoods
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*With Jharkhand Janadikar Mahasabha. Click HERE for video testimonies before the fact-finding committee 

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