Land protests over Deocha Pachami coal block


Why are local villagers upset despite a revised relief and rehabilitation package?

Why are local villagers upset despite a revised relief and rehabilitation package?

The story so far: The West Bengal sur ambitious Deocha Pachami coal block mining project at Mohammad Bazar in Birbhum district has run into hurdles over land acquisition and other issues. On February 20, nine people, including economist-activist Prasenjit Bose, were arrested at a rally to protest against the proposed project, being undertaken by the West Bengal Power Development Corporation. Bail has been rejected, and Bose and others have been sent to judicial custody until March 1 when they will be produced in court again. On Monday, February 21, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a sweetened relief and rehabilitation package, and said there would be no forcible acquisition of land for the project, which was awarded to the State by the Center in 2018.

What is the project?

The State government is planning to start mining at the Deocha Pachami coal block, considered to be the largest coal block in the country with reserves of around 1,198 million tonnes of coal and 1,400 million cubic meters of basalt, spread over an area of ​​12.31 sq. Km. km, which is around 3,400 acres. There are around 12 villages in the project area with a population of over 21,000, comprising Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

However, the ₹ 35,000 crore Bengal government project is facing protests over land acquisition. The government owns 1,000 acres, of which 300 acres is forest land, but needs to acquire the rest to start coal mining.

Why are locals upset?

Villagers represented by the Birbhum Jomi Jeeban Jeevika O Prakiti Bachao Mahasabha (Birbhum Save Land and Environment Protection Organization) have been organizing protests and rallies against the project, with activists claiming that there is a “misleading propaganda” that locals are willing to give land voluntarily ”. Locals, mostly Santhal tribals, have close affinity with the land, with forests and waterways, and rely on it for their needs. Activists said that instead of engaging with the people on their grievances about the coal mining project, they, together with the tribals, were being harassed and had been arrested under false and serious charges. Various other organizations have leanted their voice to the protests and spoken out against alleged police atrocities, including the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (which had led the year-long farmers ‘stir on the borders of Delhi), the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, Bangla Sanskriti Mancha and the Teachers Against the Climate Crisis. Experts, environmentalists and activists have raised a host of issues concerning the project and the pitfalls of going ahead with plans for open cast mining of coal at a time when there are calls to cut back on fossil fuel to tackle global warming. Also, the project details have not yet been made public; and the environment clearance is awaited.

What is the compensation package?

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee insists that the State needs the mining project, saying it will create about one lakh jobs. The State government revised the relief and rehabilitation project, which will cost the exchequer ₹ 10,000 crore, to give land losers a better deal. The Chief Minister claimed that of 4,300 families who will be affected by the project, about 1,600 families have decided to hand over their land willingly.

Under the revised relief & rehabilitation (R&R) package for Deocha Pachami coal block, a person having land in the area will get double the market value along with 100% solatium as land cost (ie around ₹ 13 lakh per bigha). “Built-up area of ​​the individual houses to be provided to all families (along with separate houses for all adult members of the family) has been increased from 600 sq ft to 700 sq ft. Compensation in lieu of built-up houses (for those who will opt for money) has been increased from ₹ 5 lakh per family to ₹ 7 lakh, ”according to the government. While the original R & R package provided for one job for one member of every family at the junior police constable level, in the revised package, those with higher qualifications will be provided with a higher grade posting in the police or an equivalent posting in other departments . A total of 5,100 people will get jobs, the government said.

Along with this, long-term residents of the area who are not landowners will be provided with land patta and a compensation package, the Chief Minister announced. “The government will develop this project and no land will be given to private players. There are some mine owners who are trying to spread misinformation among people. Despite this, if anyone does not want to give land we will not force and will develop the project excluding that portion, ”Ms. Banerjee said.

Are the protests similar to Singur and Nandigram?

When Ms. Banerjee was in the Opposition, she spearheaded a massive protest at Singur against forced land acquisition that led the Tatas to exit the State with the Nano small car project. In 2007, land acquisition for a proposed chemical hub during Left rule also turned violent. The protests at Deocha Pachami comes at a time when the Trinamool Congress government, in its third term, has been trying to shed its anti-industry image and bring back jobs to the State and stop large-scale migration of youngsters to other States.

THE GIST

The West Bengal resc ambitious Deocha Pachami coal block mining project despite the announcement of a relief and rehabilitation package, saw widespread protests which resulted in the arrests of nine people including economist-activist Prasenjit Bose.

Considered the largest coal block in the country, Deocha Pachami has reserves of around 1,198 million tonnes of coal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated that the mining project will create about one lakh jobs.

Experts, environmentalists and activists have raised a host of issues concerning the pitfalls of going ahead with plans for open cast mining of coal at a time when there are calls to cut back on fossil fuels to tackle global warming.



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