The mandatory public hearing in Raipur last month on the coal mines proposed to be developed by the Dainik Bhaskar group brought to the fore a dominant perception among the villagers: that is, under colonial land acquisition law, farmers and tribals were not treated as badly by the British as they are now.
Chhattisgarh government representatives conducted the hearing at Dhramjaigarh, about 325 km east of Raipur, to seek the villagers' environment clearance to mine coal over 1,700 acres (one acre = 43,560 square feet), covering six villages.
However, Sushil Nahar of DB Power, a subsidiary of Dainik Bhaskar, said his firm would never ignore the concerns and needs of the people and would act in accordance with the norms of the union ministry of environment and forests..
The draft Environment Impact Assessment report, commissioned by Dainik Bhaskar, says after getting the mining lease grant, the process of acquiring land will begin under the Land Acquisition Act. But the report did not mention the area came under the Constitution's Fifth Schedule, which deals with the administration of tribal areas.
Laxmi Chouhan, environment activist and secretary to Sarthak, an NGO, is upset. "When the three of the six gram panchayats of the area had earlier passed a resolution refusing land for the project, how could DB Power acquire the land in the Fifth Schedule area?" he asked.
Raigarh collector Ashok Agrawal said: "Let the project get environment clearance. Decision on the land acquisition process will be taken after that."