DNA investigation: In Jharkhand, it’s the shame old coal story

Published: Monday, Dec 3, 2012, 10:00 IST
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Bokaro | Agency: DNA

Close on the heels of allegations that coal block allottees in Jharkhand used coal in plants outside the state, the BJP-led government is in for more embarrassment. A recent report by the local administration confirmed that Electrosteel Castings Ltd (ECL), which was allotted the Parbatpur coal block in Jharkhand, has illegally occupied more than 900 acres of government land in and around the coal block and the company’s proposed steel plant.
According to the report submitted by the deputy commissioner of Bokaro to the Jharkhand government, ECL has encroached upon 942 acres of land belonging to the state and the forest department. Of this, 477 acres are forest land located in two blocks of Chas and Chandankyari in Bokaro district.

Besides, 112 plots or parts of land belonging to villagers from Chandankyari, measuring between 0.03 acres and 3.94 acres, have allegedly been illegally occupied by the company. DNA is in possession of this list of usurped plots, which was prepared by the circle officer, Chandankyari block.

Another report, by the circle officer of the Chas block, states that in various plots, the company has levelled land of people living within the block and wrested control of it.
The two circle officers have even sent numerous notices to the company ordering that the land be returned to the villagers. Both the reports were prepared in November last year.
Despite villagers and activists’ protests against the illegal occupation of their land, the company has reneged on its promise of providing employment to those affected; a rehabilitation policy is yet to be implemented.

As per the company’s memorandum of understanding with the Jharkhand government, ECL was to chalk out and implement a resettlement policy that was superior to the state’s available schemes. However, a report by the state zilla parishad and panchayati raj committee presented on March 31 this year said, “During the course of inquiry, the committee found that neither has the company formed its own rehabilitation and resettlement policy which is better than the government’s policy nor has it implemented the resettlement policy of the state government.”

The report also noted that the company purchased land from all villagers at the same rate, by clubbing all of the plots under one category. However, there are five types of land and the rates should have been different, argued activists. The company’s intention, said the report, may have have been to save money.

DNA has a list of all plots purchased by ECL, all sold for Rs2,500 per unit to ECL by villagers. “The plots have been bought from the year 2004 to 2008. How can the rates be the same? The company has saved millions by buying land at the same rate and cheated the people,” said Dilip Tiwari, president of the Bokaro district Marxist Coordination Committee who has written numerous letters to authorities demanding higher compensation.

Vinod Singh, MLA and chairman of the committee, told DNA that there are many irregularities in the rehabilitation process.“Several villagers complained about not being provided employment as promised and several others of land being illegally taken away from them.”

His report mentions that during the inquiry, the company could not ascertain anything about how many people would be provided employment.

However, Arun Garodia, senior deputy general manager of ECL, denied that there is any problem with the relief and rehabilitation component of either the Parbatpur coal block or the proposed steel plant. Regarding the accusations of illegal occupation of land, Garodia said the state forest department had alleged that the company encroached “on or about 150 acres of forestland” for setting up the proposed steel plant. “In this regard, the state forest department filed 28 criminal cases and 10 BPLE (Bihar Public Land Encroachment)  Act cases against the company and its officials. The Jharkhand high court has quashed each and every case against the company. As such, there is no issue of encroachment upon  forestland or government land,” Garodia said.