Land Acquisition Protests Gain Momentum in Jharkhand

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Villagers are protesting against the NTPC in Hazaribagh and against coal mines in Barkagao.

Ranchi : Tribals with their weapons protest against land acquisition bill in Ranchi on Monday. Credit: PTI

Ranchi : Tribals with their weapons protest against land acquisition bill in Ranchi on Monday. Credit: PTI

Protests against land acquisition for industries are gaining momentum in Jharkhand and a police firing in Ramgarh has fuelled it further.

Former chief minister, Babulal Marandi, on Tuesday started a two-day mass fast at Hazaribagh district against land acquisition by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC).

On Monday, the police had opened fire on villagers, who were demanding compensation for land acquired by Innland Power Limited (IPL). Two people were killed and more than 20, belonging to either sides, were injured.

The displaced people were earlier called for talks, at the IPL factory, which the management did not attend. This angered the villagers.

According to opposition parties, the land rate compensation given to villagers this time were much lesser than the 2013 land acquisition provisions.

Jharkhand is facing these protest at various places. In Hazaribagh, the villagers are protesting against the NTPC, while in Barkagao the protest is against coal mines.

NTPC was awarded coal blocks for thermal power plant at Barkagao in 2010, but mining could not start because of protests.

The opposition had put the state government on the mat during budget session in February for low compensation of land in the Santhal Pargana region. They had alleged that the price was reduced to ensure that the Adani power plant received land at a low rate.

Following this, a committee was formed to look into the land rates of Santhal Pargana.

The fresh row over land acquisition began when Jharkhand tried to make changes to two land acts, the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CTA) and the Santhal Pargana Act (SPT).

Even an alliance partner of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party joined the opposition as the changes could lead to land acquisition for non agricultural purposes like power plants, roads, malls and other things.

Former central minister and Congress leader, Subodhkanat Sahay, told IANS, “Jharkhand is suffering from a land acquisition problem.”

Echoing his view, former chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) executive president, Hemant Soren, told IANS, “ The killing of people indicates the ruthless and insensitive approach of the Raghubar Das government.”

The opposition has also alleged that the state has proposed to form land banks which will lead to the eviction of people living on government land.

The protest against NTPC had gained momentum in July when opposition leaders went to Barkagao to extend their support to the movement. NTPC lodged an FIR against them for entering the mining area. On August 4, the opposition even courted arrest.

Chief Minister Raghubar Das had assured the villagers earlier this month that agricultural land would not be acquired forcefully.

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