Protests over forest land acquisition on, people from 20 villages write to CM Baghel
Protesting for a week now, people from 20 villages in Chhattisgarh have written to chief minister Bhupesh Baghel against alleged irregularities in land acquisition and allotment of coal blocks without the consent of gram sabhas.
Coming together under Hasdev Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, the protestors wrote to Baghel demanding that no mining project be given land in the region. They also appealed to the CM to scrap land acquisition in the villages of Salhi, Hariharpur and Fathepur in the Parsa coal block in Surguja and Surajpur districts.
In the three villages, the acquisition process was carried out without the consent of the concerned gram sabhas, in a clear violation of established rules, the letter said. It demanded that the forest clearance given by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change also be cancelled.
The government, however, claimed that the allocation was done as per the norms. “The allocation of coal block and land acquisition in the area has been done as per the law but if there is any specific case, the villagers can file a complaint and we will review it,” said director of public relations Taran Prakash Sinha.
The protestors also demanded that the developer-cum-operator agreement between the Adani group and Chhattisgarh Power Generation Company, which was allotted the Paturia and Gidhmuri coal block, be cancelled.
Hasdeo Arand is one of the largest contiguous stretches of dense forest in central India, spanning about 170,000 hectares. The catchment area of the Hasdeo Bango barrage irrigates 4 lakh hectares of prime agricultural land. In 2009, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change declared the region a ‘no-go area’ for mining. It was in 2015 that the 20 gram sabhas of Hasdeo Arand had passed a unanimous resolution to oppose all future auction/allotment of coal blocks and mining, and submitted it to the then chief minister and prime minister.
“The PESA Act 1996 is applicable in these areas. It has to be followed but for the benefit of companies like Adani, the state government is violating these provisions,” Hasdev Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti convening member Umeshwar Singh Armo said.
The Panchyats Extension to Scheduled Area (PESA) Act mandates the government to take the gram sabha’s permission to acquire tribal land.
Farmer leader Anand Mishra, who is supporting the dharna, said, “The fight is not only to save one or two villages but to save Chhattisgarh. The day they destroy Janjgir, Korba and Bilaspur districts, the forests of Hasdev will be craving for water.”