Through Dr P L Ahuja Rai, Member Secretary, EAC, Director, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Subject-illegal public hearing on Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd project at Jharkhand’s Potka, East Singbhum stopped by villagers
This is to draw your urgent attention towards the stoppage of illegal public hearing for New Delhi based Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd (BPSL)’s project at Jharkhand’s Potka, East Singbhum by villagers on September 24, 2012 in the presence of Additional District Magistrate (law and order) Shri Ajit Shankar, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB)'s regional officer Shri R N Choudhury and SDO Shri Subodh Kumar.
I submit that while the MoU refers to 900 MW, the banner of the illegal public hearing referred to 300 MW.
I submit that I was present at the site of the public hearing, Pariyojana Balika Ucch Vidyalaya, Potka near Potka police station, East Singhbhum district on September 24, 2012. The attempt to hold this illegal public hearing is in contempt of recent directive of the Jharkhand high court for strict implementation of the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA), 1908.
I heard advivasi villagers shouting slogans in Hindi like: Loha nahi, anaj chahiye (not iron, need food grains), Hume Karkhana nahi, Gaon ka vikas chahiye (Don’t want factory, want development of village), na jaan denge, na jamin denge (will neither give life nor land), Jal, Jangal, Jamin ki Lut, nahi kisi ko iski chhut (No one is allowed to loot water, forest and land), Bhushan company Potka Chhodo (Bhushan company, Leave Potka), Inqilab Zindabad (Long Live Revolution), Hul Johar. A attached pamphlet of the joint forum opposing displacement of adivasi villagers states that the land has been taken in violation of the CNT Act and Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and they have submitted petitions to the Commissioner and Governor informing them about the categorical opposition of the villagers’ of Potka block to the establishment of Bhushan’s factory. It notes that Bhushan company is involved in the coal block allocation scandal. It observes that government officials have become loyal to the company and betrayed the adivasi villagers. It alleges that few Mukhiyas and officials have been bribed.
I submit that it is noteworthy that the BPSL the water requirement for proposed plant will be 6610 cubic meter/hour, as per its claim. This requirement is proposed to be met from River Swaranrekha 29 km from the plant site. It is also called Subarnarekha. Its tributary, Kharkai river is also likely to be exploited as the water extraction is planned from the meeting point of Swarnrekha and Kharkai river. The Kharkai meets the Subarnarekha at Sonari (Domuhani), a neighbourhood of Jamshedpur.
I submit that the 470 km long Subarnarekha, a rain-fed river has been the lifeline of tribal communities inhabiting the Chhotanagpur region. There is an urgent need to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of industrial projects on the river to protect its continued existence. The BPSL’s project along with the Subarnarekha multipurpose project that envisaged the construction of two dams, one at Chandil across the Subarnarekha and the other across the Kharkai at Icha near Chaibasa, two barrages at Galudih across the Subarnarekha and the other across the Kharkai at Ganjia near Adityapur and a network of canals from these pose a life threatening impact on the river.
I submit that geologists have underlined that Subarnarekha is drying up. The Experts Appraisal Committee should visit the source of the river near Piska/ Nagri, 30 km from Ranchi and examine the path Subarnarekha travels through Ranchi, Seraikela, Kharsawan and East Singhbhum district.
I submit that besides EAC and Jharkhand Govt, given the fact that Subarnarekha flows through Paschim Medinipur district in West Bengal for 83 kilometres and in Balasore district of Odisha where for 79 km and joins the Bay of Bengal near Talsari, the neighboring states of West Bengal and Odisha and all the concerned State governments ought to examine the health of the river and make appropriate recommendations to save the river from further exploitation by factoring in the cumulative impact assessment study.
I submit that until this is done and the cumulative impact assessment study of the Subarnarekha river basin is undertaken and examined, there should be a moratorium on industrial projects dependent on the river.
I submit that taking note of the proposals of Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd and the proposed public hearing villagers who have been protesting since 2007, wrote a letter to the Governor of Jharkhand Gram Sabha Roladih through its President on September 13, 2012, letter no. 11/GS/2012 with a 'Request for immediate cancellation of the Public Hearing scheduled to be held at Potka, East Singbhum on 24th September 2012'.
The letter expressed the resentment of the villages, members of local Gram Sabha and local social organisations stating the following:
I submit that a similar letter dated September 13, 2012, Reference no. 18/G.S.2012 was sent to the Governor of Jharkhand by Gram Sabha of Samorasai through its President.
I submit that when no action was taken to stop the public hearing, Visthapan Virodhi Ekta Manch (Unity Forum Against Displacement) opposed and stopped the public hearing conducted by Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board and stopped it on September 24, 2012. Agitating against the illegal public hearing for the proposed project of Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd (BPSL), the villagers imposed a 24 hour Janta Curfew from September 23, 2012. Some main roads to Potka were closed and the villagers used traditional tools to make the Janta Curfew a success.
I submit that around 10 o' clock on September 24, rally of thousands of villagers opposing the proposed steel cum power plant reached the site of the public hearing. Initially, police stopped the rally at the main gate of the Pariyojana Balika Ucch Vidyalaya, Potka near Potka police station, East Singhbhum district. Villagers ignored the police and entered the venue to protest against the proposed plant.
I submit that the illegal public hearing was initiated by Bhushan Steel representatives and district administration. Land owners and thousands of villagers opposed the process. Taking account of the situation, district administration announced the closure of the public hearing and one by one the officials fled from the site.
I submit that just outside the venue Visthapan Virodhi Ekta Manch held a public meeting and announced the disruption and closure of the public hearing and announced the end of Janta Curfew.
I submit that in a statement issued by Amal Ranjan Sardar, President, Gram Sabha Roladidih and Badal Sardar, President, Bhumi Raksha Vahini Kisan Morcha, Roladih, it was stated that in protest against the public hearing Visthapan Virodhi Ekta Manch, Gao Ganrajya Parishad, Bhumi Raksha Vahini, Kisan Morcha Roladih, Khunt Katti Raiyat Suraksha Sangharsh Samiti Potka, Bhumi Raksha Sangharsh Samiti Aasanbani Panchayat, Bhumi Surksha Samiti, Kalikapur, Bhumi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti Potka, Aadiwasi-Mulwasi Vikas Parishad, Akhil Bharitya Aadiwasi Mahasabha, Kumar Chandra Mardi, Badal Sardar, Kapur Bagi, Madan Mohan, Kumar Dilip, Samir Sardar, Amal Ranjan, Ramanath Hansda, Sitaram Tudu, Dhiren Bhagat, Dr Somaya Soren, Saraswati Sardar, Lalita Sardar, Malti Sardar, Aamika, Salkhan, Ghaniram, Babulal, Baburam, Shyam Charan, Uday and others participated.
It may be remembered that a Janta Curfew during 15-16 May, 2010 was also imposed when BPSL tried to do ‘Bhumi Pujan’ on May 16. The adivasi villagers witnessed the collusion of some ruling party and opposition party in the state. They have developed healthy distrust for politicians and have become more determined to save their land and culture.
I am enclosing photographs of key documents reveal the illegality of Bhushan Power & Steel Ltd and the pictures of the villagers protest.
I submit that Jharkhand's Potka villagers are right in stating that Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd company's proposed project in the Fifth Schedule, CNT & PESA Area is illegal. The notification for public hearing which was issued by Shri S K Sinha, Member Secretary, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board is illegal. It may also be noted that the notification itself is technically flawed as well as it does not have any reference no and it did not reveal the details of the proposed project.
I submit that I have examined the seven page MoU dated September 7, 2006 between Jharkhand Government and Bhushan Power and Steel Ltd for 3 million tonne per annum (MTPA) capacity steel plant-cum-900 MW captive power plant (CPP) is illegal. The MoU was signed by Sanjay Singal, the Chairman & Managing Director, BPSL and Arun Kumar Singh, Secretary, Industry, Jharkhand Govt.
At page 2, the MoU reads: "The Plant will be completed within Five years from the handing over of the land possession and necessary availability of raw material linkages for the project. The total capital investment in the project is expected to be around Rs 10500 crores. In addition to this the Company will develop Iron Ore, Coal and Manganese Mines for captive use. The investment for the development of these mines will be in addition to the investment of Rs 10500 crores..."
I submit that it does not take into account the facts the proposal is violation of the PESA Act as per which the gram sabha’s consent is required. PESA extends panchayat laws to areas that have been included under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The PESA is aimed at safeguarding the traditional rights of the tribals to natural resources. The MoU violates those rights.
For Land, the MoU at page 3 reads:"The Jharkhand Government shall render all possible assistance in procuring adequate and suitable land, whether Government land, forest or private (2700 acres of land within Plant boundary required for setting up manufacturing plant at Potka Block in Jamshedpur region East Singhbhum District) or any other place and 750 acres for township free from all encumbrances..."
I submit that this assurance by the State Govt. is in total disregard of the interest of the adivasis, their land and livelihood for thousands of years.
For Water, it reads:"The Jharkhand Government shall facilitate permission for optimal withdrawal of water (for industrial and domestic use) from Subernrekha river at Domuhani the joining point (of) the Kharkai & Swarnrekha River for operation of the project as per the prevailing rates and as per the requirement of the project. In case the project requires to meet the water requirement through borewells the company at its cost will make own necessary provisions required for recharging the ground water in the premises."
I have learnt that when the BPSL had tried to lay the foundation stone for its project thousands of villagers of several villages barricaded all the roads leading to the village. The Gram Sabha has imposed a ban on the entry of surveyors in the village. This shows that what the State Govt promises in the MoU are contrary to the interest of the adivasi villagers.
For raw material at page 4, the MoU reads:"The Jharkhand Govt. recognize the provision of continuous supply of suitable quantity of Iron Ore, Coal and Manganese Ore is vital to the project as it is the basis on which the project is being carried forward by BPSL and Jharkhand Govt. shall make best endeavor to ensure that adequate captive mining sources are made available to the company as per requirement, at least for a period of 30 years". It further reads: " The state Govt agrees to recommend coal blocks to the Govt. of India so as to meet the requirement of mineral reserve of 320 Tons of Non coking coal and 60 Million ton of medium coking coal for captive coal mining for the project either directly or, through JV with a Jharkhand PSU."
For Iron Ore and other Minerals, the MoU reads:"The company will require mineral reserve of at least 200 Million Tons of Iron ore to meet the requirement of the proposed steel plant of 3 million ton capacity per annum. The Jharkhand Govt. agrees to grant prospecting licences and captive mining leases for mines having reserves of 200 million tons after following prescribed procedures and completion of required formalities including approval from Govt. of India. For this purpose, the Jharkhand Govt. shall recommend to the central Govt. and use its best offices to obtain the central Govt.'s approval within minimum possible time for the grant of prospecting licenses and mining leases for captive Ore mines. Final leases shall be executed only after BPSL acquires the required land and invests at least 25 % of the project cost in the Plant and machinery on site."
For Manganese Ore, the MoU reads:"The Jharkhand Govt. agrees to grant prospecting licences and Mining lease for suitable reserve of Manganese Ore to meet captive requirement of the company for its ferro-alloy plant for a period of 30 years after following prescribed procedures and after obtaining necessary approval of Govt. of India."
I have learnt from the villagers that the MoU by the State Govt and the complicity of the political parties is an assault not only on land and natural resources but also adivasi society and culture. The adivasi villagers are convinced that barring few most of the politicians are agents of the company. One of the villagers wondered as to how to trust even adivasi Chief Minister if he has pledged his allegiance to the company instead of the adivasi’s welfare.
At page 5 of the MoU, for environment and other clearances the Jharkhand Govt. agreed to forward proposal of BPSL in obtaining No Objection Certificate through State Pollution Control Board and for obtaining all necessary clearances from the Central Government. It is agreed in the MoU that "BPSL shall arrange to conduct a rapid Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and detailed EIA and prepare an Environment Management Plan (EMP) for the project".
I submit that a section of the print and electronic media has been publishing ‘paid news’ and are not reliable. If the newspapers and channels and seemingly complicit district and police administration want to face the truth, let them procure a copy of the EIA report of BPSL’s proposed plant in Potka and present it for independent scrutiny. The complete EIA report and detailed EIA and prepare an EMP has not been shared with the villagers and is not available in public till date.
It is promised in the MoU that "The Jharkhand Government shall assist in obtaining expeditiously all the statutory and non statutory clearances required for setting up of a steel plant, captive power plant, mines, housing colony, pipelines, power transmission lines, and other material transportation infrastructures from the competent authorities...Such clearances shall include forest clearances both for the steel plant site, CPP site and captive coal, Iron Ore and Manganese Ore Mines. The Jharkhand Government shall facilitate state Govt.'s recommendations to Ministries of Coal, Mines, Power, Environment and Forest of the Govt. of India for necessary approvals, clearances and sanctions."
I submit that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by MECON Consultant, a Government of India Enterprise for the proposed Integrated Steel Plant of 3.MTPA and 300 CPP has not been made available to the villagers till date. It is not in public domain. It appears that it is being treated either as a classified document or the complete EIA/ EMP has not been prepared as yet.
I submit that nowhere in the MoU it is acknowledged that the 2700 acres of land within Plant boundary + 750 acres of land for township is adivasi land which has constitutional protection which is beyond statutory and non statutory clearances.
In view of the above, it is submitted that the stoppage of illegal and un-constitutional public hearing by adivasi villagers has merit to implement the decision of the Gram Sabha of Roladih and Samorasai cannot be overlooked. The voice of the adivasi villagers is facing onslaught of company representatives and conniving and colluding officials. A delegation of the villagers and members of the Gram Sabha ought to be invited to hear their testimonies.