Jharkhand tribals’ protest

Arun Srivastava

Power plant of Gujarat’s Adani group has emerged as the focal point of Adivasi anger in Jharkhand. The Government of Jharkhand wants thousands of farmers to give up their multi-crop fertile lands for a power plant that Adani Limited will set up. The plant which will sell its entire electricity produce to Bangladesh. On February 17, the state signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Adani Limited. It pledged to invest Rs 15,000 crore to set up the thermal power plant.

It was with the aim to help the Adani group to get the required amount of land that the state’s BJP government amended the nativce tenancy acts Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Act. Until the recent amendments in the acts raiyats were not allowed to sell their cultivable land for non-agricultural purposes. But after amendment the company candirectly purchase the lands owned by the raiyats. As much as 2,120.59 acres out of the 2,385 acres of land identified in Godda belongs to raiyats, title holders of land in Jharkhand.

The local authorities have also been coercing the unwilling farmers to sell their lands. Adani still needs more than 3,500 acres of land. Ironically on December 1, Arjun Yadav received a notice from the sub-divisional magistrate court of Godda, issued under section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, saying he and 22 others could disrupt peace during the social impact assessment (SIA) meeting of Adani Power (Jharkhand) Limited, which was to be held five days later on December 6, 2016. It is worth mentioning that Yadav is a landless farmer in his 50s and 70 per cent disabled. Why was he considered a threat?

The government has also fixed land sale rates. The rates were issued on November 10, 2016. As per the Right to Fair compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, (LARR), 2013, Adani will have to pay four times the market rate to title holders. 

The net sown area – or land on which crop is sown – of Jharkhand amounts to only 28 per cent. The north-eastern border of Jharkhand, through Godda district, forms a chunk of that percentage. Rice is the traditional crop in the area. Villagers allege that Adani Power and the state administration are hand in glove in an attempt to fleece the farmers in the area. They have used the land records of 1932 to show that a majority of the land in Godda is not being used for agriculture.

The government officials are also misusing the social impact assessments (SIA), a tool to find out whether the locals are not exploited and nothing is being done without their express consent. The SIA exercise has become a farce. The government officials have also been manipulating the compensation. As per the SIA, only 5,339 people from 841 families – all title holders – will be affected by the land acquisition. However local people claim that if the assessment for compensation is being in the light of the LARR 2013 in that case the number of affected families will be at least four times than what has been recorded by the District administration.

Jharkhand has been the most favoured state for the corporate sector to set up their shops. The area of Godda has already witnessed a number of struggles. Meanwhile in a significant development the BJP's Khunti MP and former deputy Speaker in the Lok Sabha Kariya Munda, 78, has accused the state BJP government of not clearing the doubts about the deal from the mind of the tribals and "forcing" amendments in Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Acts through the Assembly without debate.

Munda a legendry tribal leader is also cut up for the reason that the nature of the amendments and their implications were not properly explained even to the MLAs. In a letter to chief minister, Raghubar Das, the eight-time tribal BJP MP wrote: "Neither was I consulted on the ordinances or the amendments, nor have I received a copy of the amendments yet. I don't know what the amendments exactly mean. Many MLAs are also unaware".

Amendments to the CNT and SPT Acts, passed in the state Assembly on November 23, make it easy to convert land use from agricultural to commercial and allow the state access to protected land for specific public projects. A Union minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Munda said this was the first time senior leaders were not consulted before such an important policy change.

Munda held “the BJP should have made people aware of the benefits that chief minister Raghubar Das must have removed doubts in the minds of tribals, 90 per cent of whom are peasants working on land. Otherwise Jharkhand won't be peaceful". Munda feared that the style of functioning of Das would alienate the tribals who have already been on the verge of losing their identity. 

A veteran politician, Munda joined Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1970. He claimed that it was after Birsa's uprising that the British promulgated the CNT Act to protect tribal land from encroachment."The government must explain why laws (CNT and SPT) were amended, because schools have been built and shops have run even before the changes. Till date, the CM has made no attempt to explain how the amendments will help tribals, how their land will stay safe. If the government talks, then we tribal leaders can talk," Munda said.

He feels that a sense of distrust prevails "A wrong message has been sent, that the state has turned against tribals...You can't anger the masses and do industrialisation. We cannot implement laws without taking people into confidence."

Since 2000, the State has signed 110 MoUs with private companies. Earlier the fight was against mahajans. Now it is big companies. (IPA) 

Wednesday, 11 January, 2017