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Adivasi protest in Gare Pelma coal mine, Kosampali, Chhattisgarh, India


Description

The Gare Pelma IV/ 2 & 3 coal block is a part of the Mand Raigarh coalfield in Ghargoda tehsil of Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh. The block covers 6 villages and is spread over 965 hectares with a geological reserve of 247 million tonnes of coal.

The Beginning of the Conflict

This block was first allocated in 1998 to Jindal Steel and Power Limited, to produce six million tonnes of coal per annum and have been a source of conflict ever since. According to the book  This is Our Homeland: A Collection of Essays on the Betrayal of Adivasi, a brief on 6th March 2006 issued by the collector’s office to the District Planning Committee, Raigarh stated that angry protests were registered by the villagers of Tamnar, Salihabhata, Godhi, Northern Regaon, Southern Regaon, Kunjemura, Pata and so on of the Gharghoda tehsil over a public announcement on acquisition of 29.595 ha of land in these villages for the Jindal Steel and Power Limited.

"Down to Earth" reported that on 5 January 2008, a public hearing was conducted amidst strong protests as affected communities had no prior knowledge of it.  However, the district authorities brought in outsiders and engineered the proceedings. Protesting locals were lathi-charged, where 7 people were grievously injured and some 200 partially injured. False cases were also booked against protesting leaders. Since then villagers had resorted to road blockades and sit-in protests, demanding that the hearing be quashed [1].

The land marked for acquisition includes the main pathway to the village, religious site, a pond and also nistar land such as cremation ground, the villagers have refuted the claim that the Jindal Steel and Power Company has acquired a no objection letter from the gram sabha and complained that the letter was issued by the gram panchayat and the word ‘panchayat’ was fudged with white ink and changed to ‘sabha’.

The Environmental Impact Assessment report was also a faulty one. Not only did it not take into account the cumulative impact of the various industries in the area, it also falsified data saying that there were no animals in the core zone [1]. Yet, despite these errors, the Environmental Clearance (EC) was granted in May 2009. This led to a petition being filed by Adivasi Majdoor Kisan Ekta Sangthan (through Harihar Patel) and Jan Chetna (through Ramesh Agarwal) with the help of advocates Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary [2]. In April 2012, the National Green Tribunal set aside this EC. This was a landmark judgement delivered by Justice C V Ramulu and Prof. R Nagendran. The judgement said- “In the case on hand, after viewing the CD of the public hearing conducted on 5.1.2008, we are surprised to note to our dismay that the same was a “farce.” It is a mockery of the public hearing and the procedure required to be followed thereof. All the norms required in conducting a smooth and fair procedure were given a go-by.This is not a case where there are a few ignorable procedural lapses in conducting the public hearing. This is a case of a mockery of public hearing, which is one of the essential parts of the decision-making process, in the grant of EC. This is a classic example of violation of the rules and the principles of natural justice to its brim. Therefore, we consider it appropriate to declare that the public hearing conducted in this case is nullity in the eye of law and, therefore, is invalid."[2]

After the Coalgate scam

In 2014, this coal block, along with 213 others were deallocated by a Supreme Court order. According to an article by Aruna Chandrashekhar for The Wire, this judgement was seen as a reason of celebration and conviction of all the protests the locals had been conducting.“We felt that finally all the lathi charges we endured, the false cases filed against us were not in vain,” said Shivpal Bhagat, the Adivasi sarpanch of Kosampali, who is still fighting cases filed against him by Jindal, the SECL and the government when he began challenging land grab in the region.

However, in 2015 the block was again up for reauctioning and Jindal won the bid at Rs. 108 per tonne of coal, which was the lowest for the entire power sector [3]. Since then, there has been a back and forth between Coal India, SECL and Jindal, leaving the villagers confused as to who pays the damages, and what the future holds, since none of the entities take up responsibility for employment or compensation or even liabilities for polluting the land and water sources. The local communities have done their own assessment and published a report titled Poisoned, in August 2017, which showed high levels of contamination in the air, water and soil.  The adivasis have been protesting with hunger strike and on 6 September 2017, the SECL promised at least 100 contract jobs and increase in the dearness allowance.  However, the fight is far from over, and uncertainty prevails. But the local defenders are ready to continue the fight till the promises are upheld [3]. [4]   

Basic Data

NameAdivasi protest in Gare Pelma coal mine, Kosampali, Chhattisgarh, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceChhattisgarh
SiteGhargoda tehsil, Raigarh district
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Coal extraction and processing
Specific CommoditiesLand
Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe Gare Pelma IV/2&3 coal block is a part of the Mand Raigarh coalfield in Ghargoda tehsil of Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh. The block covers 6 villages and is spread over 965 hectares with a geological reserve of 247 million tonnes of coal.
Project Area (in hectares)968
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date01/01/1998
Company Names or State EnterprisesJindal Steel and Power Limited from India
Relevant government actorsCoal India Limited and its subsidiary South Eastern Coalfields Limited
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersJan Chetna Manch, Raigarh.

Adivasi Majdoor Kisan Ekta Sangthan.

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Trade unions
Women
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationAppeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Public campaigns
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Blockades
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Strikes
Official complaint letters and petitions

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Although there have been some victories in terms of getting court verdicts with respect to the formation of a committee to look into serious environmental violations as well as payment of Rs. 5 crore each by both CIL and Jindal as part of performance guarantee bond for compensating the affected people [3], the future plan of action isn't clear yet.

Sources and Materials

Links

4.How Chhattisgarh's mine protest expose failure of India's coal auctions. This unusual protest unfolds the heart of the Mand Raigarh coalfields that hold 3.675 billion tonnes. 10 Sept 2017
http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/how-chhattisgarh-s-mine-protest-expose-failure-of-india-s-coal-auctions-117091000167_1.html

3. A Successful Protest Against a Chhattisgarh Mine Highlights the Failure of India’s Coal Auctions by Aruna Chandrashekhar, The Wire. 10.09.2017
https://thewire.in/175055/chhattisgarh-mine-protest-coal-auctions/

1. EIA for Jindal coal mine in Chhattisgarh ignores threats. Sujit Kumar. Down to Earth. 15 February 2008
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/eia-for-jindal-coal-mine-in-chhattisgarh-ignores-threats-4169

2. Newspaper article in The Hindu about the quashing of the Environmental Clearance by the National Green Tribunal in 2012.
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/green-tribunal-says-no-to-jindal-steel/article3338055.ece

Media Links

Video mentioning how the public hearing conducted by Jindal was fake, and the green tribunal rejected the environmental clearance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_TGHrEGzi4

The Death of Kelo River, by Video Volunteer Savita Rath
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcZyPdv9ub4

Other Documents

Description of the coal block
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Gare-Palma-IV-2n3.pdf

Kanhai Patel (R), who was on a hunger strike. Credit: Aruna Chandrasekhar
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/GarePalma.jpg

Adivasi women camp at a tent set up at the entrance of the mine. Women and children are currently facing the worst health impacts from coal-dust and fly-ash pollution from industries in the region. Credit: Aruna Chandrasekhar
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Raigarh-mines-protest.jpg

Children from Kosampali village walk past a sign signalling blasting in the Gare Pelma IV/2&3 mines. Many houses here are less than 200 metres from the mine’s blasting site. Credit: Aruna Chandrasekhar
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Kosampalivillage.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorBrototi Roy
Last update09/01/2018

Images

 

Children from Kosampali village walk past a sign signalling blasting in the Gare Pelma IV/2&3 mines. Many houses here are less than 200 metres from the mine’s blasting site. Credit: Aruna Chandrasekhar

Kanhai Patel (R), who was on a hunger strike. Credit: Aruna Chandrasekhar

 

Adivasi women camp at a tent set up at the entrance of the mine. Women and children are currently facing the worst health impacts from coal-dust and fly-ash pollution from industries in the region. Credit: Aruna Chandrasekhar