Jharkhand: NTPC Site Resumes Coal Dispatch After Protestors Clash with Police, Call Off Agitation

Among the protestors 30-odd demands were those for compensation for crop loss due to coal pollution and actions to curb environmental pollution in the area.

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New Delhi: A clash with the police on Sunday, October 10 brought an end to the indefinite strike which raiyats (farmers and landowners) have been at since October 5 at an NTPC site at Banadag in Jharkhand’s Kusumba village, the Times of India reported.

The protesters, who called themselves the Visthapit Raiyat Morcha, had a list of up to 30 demands, which included the payment of compensation for crop loss due to coal pollution in the area, the provision of jobs to locals and actions to curb environmental pollution in the area.

The police reportedly unleashed a lathi charge and used water cannons on the protestors on Sunday morning; around two dozen protesters and police personnel were reportedly injured in the ensuing scuffle.

The police claim that they had to use “mild force” to subdue the protesters because they reportedly began pelting stones and damaging the vehicles of the administrative officials who had allegedly come to hold talks with them and put an end to their agitation.

According to Aditya Kumar Anand, the local deputy commissioner of police (DCP), five district officials then met with the protesters and heard their grievances. After assuring them that their issues would be resolved, the morcha called off their agitation on Sunday evening.

Speaking to the Times of India, Anand noted that the NTPC has been directed to address any problems in the future so that such protests do not take place. He also said, “Coal dispatch [from the NTPC site] has begun but it will take some time to regain normalcy. “

B.P. Mehta, former MP and secretary of the CPI, however, accused the administration of siding with the NTPC and forcefully ending the agitation. At a press conference, he noted that the demands of the protesters were “genuine” and that the force used by the police was “unwarranted”.

He went on to note that two dozen protestors were injured and 17 were detained. He condemned the police action and reaffirmed that he stood with the protestors. He even claimed that local BJP MLA Manish Jaiswal had a hand in the events that transpired, alleging that Jaiswal’s had obtained a contract for the transportation of coal from the NTPC.

These developments come at a time when several states such as Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu claim that a coal shortage is impacting power generation, despite the country producing record amounts of coal this year.

While power plants are required to maintain 15 – 30 days worth of coal stocks, some generation units reportedly only have reserves as low as two-days-worth and some power producers and distributors have warned of potential blackouts.

Also read: As Some States Warn of Power Crisis, Coal Ministry Says Supplies Have Been Sorted Out

Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi, has reportedly written to the Prime Minister regarding a “power crisis” in his state. He has said that he is “personally keeping a close watch on the situation” and that he is trying his best to avoid it.

What’s more, a recent hike in international coal prices has affected power generation capabilities for those power plants which rely on imported coal to generate electricity. Tata Power has been forced to stop power generation from its coal-based power plant in Mundra, Gujarat. Adani Power is reportedly facing similar problems at its Mundra unit.

The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) has been forced to implement 3-4 hour load shedding in various parts of the state. Rajasthan, too, has been forced to incur one-hour power cuts on a daily basis.

Eight power plants in Uttar Pradesh have reportedly stopped production, adding to six plants which were not generating power already for different reasons, according to a DNA report.

Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh are all also reportedly facing problems in power generation.

Sources have detailed four reasons for the coal shortage in the country:

  • An unprecedented increase in demand of electricity due to revival of economy
  • Heavy rains in coal mine areas during September impacting production as well as despatch
  • An increase in prices of imported coal to unprecedented high level leading to substantial reduction in power generation from imported coal based power plants
  • non-building of adequate coal stocks before the onset of monsoon

The coal ministry, however, has claimed that there is no threat to power generation in the country. 

The ministry said that the stocks which are being reported by power plants are “rolling stocks”, which means they are replenished on a day-to-day basis.

It further noted that there are “40 million tonnes” of coal stocks in mines across the country and another 7.5 million tonnes at power plants, according to PTI.