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Adani’s Godda Power Plant is a tale of oppression, forceful land acquisition and violation of human rights

Ranchi: The fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, an umbrella network of 30 organisations working for the betterment of the common men, on investigating the truth of Jharkhand government’s much hyped MOU with the Adani group to setup a power plant in its Godda district found that the project tells a saga of forceful acquisition of land and severe violation of processes set by land acquisition act 2013. It has also noted that the project to attain the target has done it all— right from bulldozing standing crops of farmers to lying to people about the potential benefits to intimidating affected people with police brutalities to filing lawsuits and so on.

According to the social impact assessment report of the proposed company, 1364 acres of land spreading across 10 villages belonging to two blocks of Godda district are to be acquired for the setting up of thermal power plant, which is to produce 1600 MW of electricity.

Both the government and company claim that the plant is a public-project with ‘zero’ displacement. They further claim that it will lead to employment and economic development of the area. The company maintains that 25 percent of total power generated would be made available to the state, while the remaining 75 percent would be sourced out to Bangladesh.

However the fact-finding report shared with eNewsroom stated, “The ground realities are far from these claims. According to the acquisition act, consent of at least 80 percent 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.”

The report indicated that between 2016 and 2017, public hearings for social impact assessment (SIA) and environment impact assessment (EIA) had also been organised. However, during those hearings several landowners opposed to the setting of the plant had been barred from attending the event by Adani functionaries and local administration. “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,” mentioned the report.

The social activists who did the ground study maintained that the social impact assessment report of the company had factual and constitutional errors like the report stating that no person in the village had been affected, zero displacement of villagers and all the residents being marked as Hindu. “The report does not mention the other alternatives for the proposed project site. It 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,” pointed out the report.

What the Mahasabha wants:

  • 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 of crops and livelihoods

For the uninitiated, the Jharkhand government has acquired around 500 acres of land in four villages of Godda district, of which 50 acres of land had been forcibly acquired from the 40 families who owned it. “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,” further alleged the fact-finding report.

The report also accused the Deputy Commissioner of not taking action when the people of Mali complained against the forceful acquisition of their land. The reported further added, “Instead (he) told the people that since their lands had been acquired, they should just take the compensation.” According to report, the inhabitants of the area maintain that about over 1000 families would be displaced if land is acquired from the marked villages, which in turn would have a direct impact on their livelihoods and survival.

It poses a grave threat to the adivasi families, whose cultural and historical identity is at stake with the acquisition of land. Interestingly, Section 20 of the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act bars the transfer and acquisition of agricultural land in Santhal Pargana for any government or private projects, barring a few exceptions.

The project also has its environmental impact too. The project requires about 14-18 MT of coal for power generation, annually. The plant will further need about 36 MCM water on a yearly basis, which will be sourced from the Chir River. “This will drain up the limited source in the water-deprived district of Godda,” pointed out the report.

Interestingly, a recent newsreport had exposed how Jharkhand government changed its energy policy in 2016 to buy power from the Adani’s company at a higher rate which might cost the exchequer more than Rs. 7000 crores in the next 25 years.

Based on its fact-finding report the Mahasabha, on behalf of all the constituent organisations and activists have demanded for the project to be stalled immediately as it violates several constitutional and legal provisions.

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