Chhattisgarh coal mines protest gets Rahul Gandhi's stamp

Congress Vice President puts Prime Minister's development model under scanner

R Krishna Das Madanpur (Korba)
Anita Ekka has been watching Rahul Gandhi on the television screen while raking up the issue of land acquisition with cross mind that he will one day visit her sleepy village in Korba district of Chhattisgarh.

The Congress Vice-President came and vowed what the villagers were waiting for. “The Congress party and I stand by you,” Rahul Gandhi told villagers gathered at Madanpur, which had been the epicenter of people’s protest against the coal mines under the Hasdeo-Arand coalfields in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district. They would not retreat from the stand, he committed.

The villagers were anticipating that their protest would get a stamp at the national level and Rahul Gandhi did not disappoint them, Ekka—a resident of Morga—said.

Her village is one of the 30 villages that would “vanish” once the 20 coal blocks identified in the coalfields had been allotted. The entire Hasdeo Arand region was classified as No-Go for mining in 2010—the only coalfields in India that was entirely mentioned as No-Go.

In the new process, seven blocks in the coalfields that has estimated reserves of 5.53 billion tonnes had been allotted/auctioned. Of the blocks, three are operational—the Chotia mines bagged by Balco from Prakash Industries and two allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Nigam Limited that had been operated by Adani Mining under Mines developer and operator (MDO) model. Three had been allotted to Chhattisgarh Power Generation Company while one in Tara was withheld after Jindal bagged it in auction.

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“We would prefer to lay down our life than giving away the land for coal mining,” Chandravati of Paturia village told Rahul Gandhi who reached Madanpur Monday afternoon on his two-day state visit to meet the forest dwellers and villagers bearing the brunt of coal mining in Hasdeo-Arand coalfields and power projects. Forests had been the source of earning for the tribals as they sell forest produces, she said, adding that even they had been depended on medicinal herbs to cure minor ailments.

Sevakram Porte of Sali village said Adani mining had been on an expansion plan in Parsa and many villages would be affected besides a major portion of dense forest. Jainandan Porte said the forest and panchayat acts had been violated and even after 18 gram sabha (village committees) passed the resolution opposing mining, the coal ministry allotted the blocks. “It was an insult to the gram sabha,” he said. 

Rahul Gandhi spoke on the line; asserting that the tribals should be the part of development and their consent would be must (for the coal block allocation). He quipped: “Modiji said since development was must, there was no need to ask anybody.” The Congress party also wanted development, but not at the cost of tribals and forests, he added.

The Congress Vice President launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said his model of development was to benefit only two or three industrialists. Without naming any industrialists, he said both the governments at the Centre and State had been working for their interest. He also took a dig on the removal of clause that ensured return of land if the project did not expedited in five years. 

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Rahul Gandhi said the Congress party would not draw the plan that would make industrialists to prosper and the tribals giving away their land to struggle. If the development took place, it would ensure that the interest of the tribals was protected and those giving away the land would not reduce to mere labourers, he added.

“The purpose of inviting Rahul Gandhi had been fulfilled,” Alok Shukla of Hasdeo-Arand Bachao Sanghrash Samiti—under whose banner the programme was organized---said. They wanted to give a boost to the agitation going on against the coal mines at the national level that had been matched with the commitment made by Rahul Gandhi.

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First Published: Jun 15 2015 | 8:26 PM IST

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