An association named Birbhum Jomi, Jibon, Jibika o Prakriti Banchao Mahasabha (Birbhum Mahasabha for Saving Land, Life, Livelihood, and Nature) of the indigenous people organised a protest action against the Deocha Pachami coal mining project in West Bengal's Birbhum district on February 20. Several arrests were also made as to the protest spread like wildfire among the Deocha's residents.
Deocha Pachami is the world's second-biggest greenfield coal block, covering 12.31 square kilometres and containing estimated reserves of 1,198 million tonnes of coal and 1,400 million cubic meters of basalt.
Reasons For Protests
The angry residents of Deocha Pachami are opposed to the mining proposal for three reasons. They will be evicted from their houses first; next, there will be anomalies in land acquisition for the project, which will contravene current land acquisition rules; and ultimately, the ecosystem will be irreversibly destroyed.
More than a year later, on November 8, 2021, state chief minister Mamta Banerjee told state lawmakers that there would be no coercive land purchase, as had occurred in Singur and Nandigram under the Left Front's reign in 2006-2007.
In a report, the Telegraph cited an official saying, "1,312 out of 4,838 landowners had granted an agreement to part with their plots." But the residents of Deocha claim that the government did not seek local approval for the Deocha-Pachami coal mining project.
Negotiations Made By Government
West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited, which received the block from the Ministry of Coal in December 2019, has selected 3,010 families for rehabilitation. However, even a decade-old census indicated that this area is home to almost 21,000 individuals from 4,400 families, approximately 12,000 of them are members of Scheduled Tribes or Scheduled caste groupings.
The CM has proposed a rehabilitation programme worth Rs 10,000 crore, but thousands of people are afraid of being evicted. Anxiety and dread have rendered the region's primarily Indigenous inhabitants debilitated, threatening their lives and livelihoods.
Meanwhile, The Indian Express reported that the state government has started laying the basis for property acquisition, with the local administration hosting camps to inspect and correct citizens' land records.
Meetings To Resolve Conflicts
After several protests and arrests, Banerjee convened the April 13 meeting to resolve the impasse over the proposed coal mine ahead of the Bengal Global Business Summit scheduled on April 20 and 2.
As part of the summit, a delegation of BJP MLAs led by Suvendu Adhikari was expected to visit the coal mine site and speak with protesters on April 20.
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