MAC: Mines and Communities

Pil Against Tata's Steel Project In Bastar

Published by MAC on 2006-03-15

PIL against Tata's Steel Project in Bastar

by Pratap Agarwal

On 15th february 2006 the Chhattisgarh High Court, in response to a PIL filed by Dr. Pratap Agarwal, issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government and District Collector, Jagdalpur asking for a response within a matter of 3 weeks.

Tata Steel Limited has signed an MoU for investment of Rs. 10,000 crores for establishing a steel plant at Chitrakoot with the government of Chhattisgarh. This will affect 10 villages of the Lohsinghguda block, where 6500 acres of land will be acquired for the project. Almost 6500 families are expected to be displaced as a result. Tata Steel had initially selected a site in the adjacent Bastanar block but the deal could not work out since the land had already been selected for mining of diamonds.

The protests at the villages in Lohsinghuda started as soon as the villagers found out about the possibility of such a plant and the land acquisition. Parliamentarians Mahendra Karma and Baliram Kashyap visted the area to discuss the matter with the people but had to face strong opposition.

The two leaders then supported the setting up of a Bastar Hit Sanrakshan Samiti – a group that would work with the villages to persuade them to sell their lands to the government.

This was followed by the organisation of another group – Nagrik Samiti – that visited the villages in the area to convince them to support the setting up of the plant by giving their lands on the basis that they would be entitled to a Rehabilitation Package as well as employment in the factory. While most people remained unconvinved about 10 people agreed to sell their 25 acres of land.

According to Dr. Pratap Agarwal purchase of agricultural land for industrial purposes is not acceptable. Common lands used for temples, burial, housing, village roads, schools, ponds and community centres cannot be acquired for industries in this region. It is a violation of the basic rights of the people.

He also said that earlier in Nagarnar a similar process was carried out where people were forcefully moved from their lands with false promises of rehabilitation which were never fullfilled. The National Mineral Development Corporation that was to set up a mining project there within 6 months,did not even begin its operations in the area four years after purchasing the land.The Bailadilla mines have already polluted the waters of the Shankhini and Dankini rivers. After all this the people of the area have got nothing. He also added that the ESSAR Pipeline project has employed only two local adivasi boys as porters in the name of employment.The politicians and government servants cannot be trusted in this matter.

The petitiner adds that the company – Tata Steel does not even require 6500 acres of land for its plant. It can instead purchase the 1000 acres of government land at Dilmili. The 20 page Petition supported with various press cuttings fromthe Navbharat, Dainik Bhaskar, Deshbandhu, Haribhoomi, Highway Channel, Channel india makes a good case highlighting the violation of rights of the adivasis, women, children, dalits and marginalised communities.

On the other hand TATA and other companies have been organising kabbadi matches and recreation activities to mobilise and gain popular support from the locals and villages in the area

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