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Coal India begins mother of all rehabilitation plans

business Updated: Aug 31, 2010 21:21 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times
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Even as corporate India struggles to find a solution to relief and rehabilitation in issues related to land acquisition, the government-owned Coal India Ltd has begun a massive plan to rehabilitate 80,000 families in Jharia in Jharkhand's Dhanbad district to secure around 13 billion tonnes of high grade coal lying beneath the town.

The plan, which would be completed in two phases over the next 10 years, entails an investment of R7,500 crore in Jharia and another R2,500 crore in nearby Raniganj area. Jharia is the biggest single rehabilitation programme in the world.

"We have just completed resettlement of some 250-300 families from Jharia," said Partha S. Bhattacharya, chairman and managing director, Coal India Ltd. "It's a massive operation and needs patience as well as continuous dialogue with the inhabitants. We are confident that we will be able to successfully complete what would be the country's biggest resettlement exercise peacefully."

If the PSU succeeds in its endeavour, it will be a stark contrast to other relatively smaller but unsuccessful rehabilitation efforts being carried out by big private sector companies like Vedanta and POSCO.

How is it then that public sector companies have so spectacularly succeeded where private companies are struggling?

"Whenever there is an issue of resettlement, there is always concern by the inhabitants and the key is to start a direct process of dialogue with them," Bhattacharya said. "Others have unfortunately relied too heavily on state governments and district level officials. That, I believe is not a very effective way to quell resistance."

Only last week, the government has denied Vedanta approval to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri hill in Orissa citing environmental concerns following protracted resistance from local tribe — Dongria kondh.

The country's biggest foreign direct investment project the Rs 52,000 crore POSCO steel plant has also not moved an inch even after 5 years of signing the MoU as local inhabitants are opposed to the South Korean miner.