The fear of getting displaced has once again gripped thousands of families sitting on one of the richest coal reserves in Asia at the North Karanpura Valley in Chatra after Union minister Piyush Goyal inaugurated the Magadh project on Sunday.
Though chief minister Raghubar Das has said Central Coalfields (CCL), which will implement the project, will keep people’s interest in mind, sceptical villagers are trying to muster courage after four years to face the state machinery again.
“These are poor villagers who had put up a fight against the mighty people in government and PSUs to protect their agrarian and forest land but the dynamics seem to have changed now,” said Bulu Imam, a Gandhi Peace awardee and a ‘Save Karanpura’ campaigner since 1980s.
Magadh is part of the 170 sqkm North Karanpura Valley that comprises 41,457 hectares of forest area demarcated as ‘no go area’ by the inter-ministerial committee of the previous government.
The open cast project, over 96.72 hectares, got environmental clearance on October 27, 2008, and the final forest clearance on October 18, 2010.
Umesh Nazir, consultant at Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC), believes that the project has been re-started on the basis of old forest and environmental clearances.
“It was because of the irregularities involved in obtaining the clearances that the villagers congregated under different banners to protest the Magadh project and it failed to see the light of the day till 2015,” he said.
According to rough estimates, 17,000 families of 14-15 villages in Chatra district will be displaced by the project. Das has congratulated CCL for promising employment to 17,000 people from displaced families after the project takes off. However the CCL is yet to clarify the nitty-gritty of providing jobs and compensation.
But civil organizations — like Karanpura Bachao Sangharsh Samity (KBSS), Karanpura Bisthapit Morcha (KBM) — which had protested CCL’s land acquisition and irregularities in obtaining green clearances in 2008-2010 — are apprehensive of coming out in open to protest.
JMACC’s Nazir says rebel groups, like Jharkhand Prastuti Committee and Tritiya Prastuti Committee, have been engaged by the agents of the PSU to suppress any form of protest once the process of land acquisition begins.
“We are watching, what role the state government plays because experience of the locals from CCL has not been good in the past,” he said. The project with a potential to produce 20MTPA coal is being described as Asia’s largest open cast mine which will fuel the growing need of India’s power industry. It will reach the targeted capacity of 20 MTPA by 2019-20