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illegitimacy of MoU, Jindal Steel, Jharkhand Govt & cancellation of public hearing in Asonbani, Potka

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, January 31, 2014 | 7:42 AM


ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To


Shri Hemant Soren
Chief Minister
Government of Jharkhand
Ranchi

Chief Secretary     
Government of Jharkhand
Ranchi

Smt Annapurna Devi
Minister, Water Resources Department       
Government of Jharkhand
Ranchi

Chairman
Experts Appraisal Committee (Industrial Projects)
Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Government of India
New Delhi 

Shri Ajay Kr. Mishra
Chairman
Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB)
Government of Jharkhand
Ranchi

Date: January 31, 2014

Subject-illegitimacy of July 2005 MoU between Jindal Steel & Power Limited and Government of Jharkhand for steel plant in Asonbani, Potka and postponement of the scheduled public hearing on January 29, 2014   

Sir,

This is with reference to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Jindal Steel & Power Limited and Government of Jharkhand for establishing a steel plant in Asonabani, Potka signed July 5, 2005 and the postponement of the scheduled public hearing for environmental clearance on January 29, 2014. 
JSPL chairman Naveen Jindal, Arjun Munda and Hemant Soren (Photo: Prashant Mitra, The Telegraph
Having read the text of the MoU signed in July 2005 when Shri Arjun Munda was the Chief Minister, Government of Jharkhand and the summary of the EIA report dated November 2013, my submission in this letter is based on the perusal of these documents and my conversation with the villagers.   

I submit that the public hearing itself would have been fake because the detailed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by Delhi based EMTRC Consultants Private Limited was not made available to the villagers. I have learnt that the villagers have been demanding cancellation the project itself from the very outset. They were seeking cancellation of the public hearing at Panchayat Bhawan ground that was to take place from 11 AM onwards on January 29.

I was there to attend the scheduled public hearing for environmental clearance. I learnt that Shri Sudhir Kumar, Member Secretary, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) has issued a notice on January 28 announcing the postponement of the scheduled public hearing for environmental clearance for proposed Greenfield Integrated Steel Plant at Asanboni, Tehsil Potka, District East Singhbhum, Jharkhand.

I submit that the notice dated January 28 reveals that it emerged because of a letter from East Singhbhum administration. This letter seems to have been necessitated because of strong opposition from the villagers.

I submit that in this conflict between the company and the villagers, the government should protect the rights of villagers and not the company else present generation of villagers of the region will never ever forgive the treachery of the politicians of the ruling party and officials who are duty bound to protect people’s interest and corporate interest.

I attended the scheduled public meeting of the villagers from Birdha, Asonbani, Lalmanoharpur, Digarsahi, Ghatiduba, Tilapmura, Gopalpur, Chatro, Govindpur and others on January 29. I learnt about the project from Shri Kumar Mardi, Smt Sonaka Mahato, Shri Manoj Rajak and members of Bhumi Raksha Sangharsh Samiti. Besides me there were social activists like Mrs Dayamani Barla, Dr Mithilesh Kumar Dangi, Sangram Hembram, Om Prakash, Mansi of Visthapit Mukti Vahini and Manish Jha of Aam Aadmi Party who expressed their strong opposition to the proposed steel plant. The ongoing struggle of Bhumi Raksha Sangharsh Samiti is focused on the protection of their land for future generations from the clutches of the company whose only motive is profit at any human and environmental cost. Such projects disturb inter-generational and intra-generational equity.
     
I visited Ghatiduba and Asonbani on January 29 to attend a public meeting. I wished to inform you that when I reached to attend the public meeting I noticed that the villagers were holding banners with slogans against the proposed steel plant of Jindal Steel & Power Limited. The following slogans of Bhumi Raksha Sangharsh Samiti merit your attention:-
1)     Jindal ka MoU radd karo (Cancel the MoU with Jindal)
2)     Jun sunwai radd karo (Cancel the Public Hearing)
3)     Kheti hume khilati hai
Company hume khati hai (Farming feeds us, company eats us)
4)     Kheti hume khilati hai
Company hume rulaati hai (Farming feeds us, company makes us weep)
5)     Hume company nahi,
anaaj chahiye (We don’t need company, we need food grains)
6)     Gram Sabha ka ullanghan nahi chalega (Violation of Gram Sabha will not be allowed)
7)     Taka paisa chaar din
Zamin thakbo chiro din (Currency and money is only for four days, land is forever)
8)     Kisan ko kheti ka haq mile
Jindal ko laat mile (Farmers should get the right to farm, Jindal should get a kick)
9)     Lena hai na dena hai
Jindal ko bhagana hai (No give and take, Jindal must be made to flee)
10) Jan-Jan ka naara hai
Factory nahi lagaana hai (Every citizens’ slogan, factory should not be established)

These slogans illustrate unequivocal opposition to the proposed project of the Jindal’s company. Only the gullible and those of easy virtue can believe that the proposed project is in the interest of the people of Jharkhand. The villagers openly challenge the claims of the government based on cost-benefit analysis. They hold that the documents manufactured for the purpose are bundle of lies.    

I submit that the following inconsistent facts which emerge from the MoU and the summary of the EIA report dated November 2013:-
·       MoU in question states that there will be an investment of Rs 11500 crore to set up a steel plant of 50 lakh ton/year. Summary of EIA report states that there will be an investment of Rs 21260 crore to set up a steel plant of 60 lakh ton/year. This is quite an arbitrary increase.
·       MoU states that there will be a requirement of 3, 000 acres. Summary of EIA report states that there will be a requirement of 1778 acres of which 1332 acres of land is a one crop private land, 372 acres is Government land and 73 acres is forest land-on addition it is found to be 1777 acres. It is quite manifest that the stated land requirement is arbitrary, motivated and an engineered act of land grab with complicity of officials and politicians from the ruling and opposition parties.    
·       Summary of EIA report states that there are villages like Birdha, Asonbani, Lalmanoharpur, Digarsahi, Ghatiduba, Tilamura, Gopalpur, Chatro in this 1778 acre land but there are only 75 houses. This is inconsistent with even what the voter list reveals.   
·       Summary of EIA report states that during construction 4, 000 people will get work for 48 to 60 months, which is approximately 4-5 years. Is it a sufficient reason for the villagers to hand over their land which has fed them for generations and will feed the future generations?
·       Summary of EIA report states that during operation of the factory about 6, 000 people will get direct jobs and 7500 people will get indirect jobs in which local people will get priority. The fact is that 1777 acres of land has fed millions of people in the past and can feed millions in future unlike the proposed plant which offers jobs only to a few thousand people.   
·       Summary of EIA report states that the company will spend Rs 1063 crore as part of Corporate Social Responsibility, Rs 1200 crore for environmental management and Rs 120 crore for pollution control. The company’s proposal itself is an irresponsible act fraught with potential for huge environmental damage and environmental diseases.
·       Summary of EIA report states that there will be water requirement of 3270 m3/hr (26.85 MCM/yr). In other words there is a water requirement if 32 lakh 70 liters of water/hour from Chandil reservoir. They will use bore wells also for the same. It reveals that it has already received the clearance from the State Government for the same.  Under the Companies Act, 2013 it is provided that companies can give up to 7.5 % of their annual profits to political parties as donations. It appears that the decision of signing of the MoU and the grant of clearance for huge water consumption is a consequence of the quid pro quo in which ruling parties in the state government in the previous regime and the current regime have a role. This has made the ruling parties callous towards the interest of the villagers of the current and future generations. The water withdrawal is proposed to be undertaken from Subernrekha river. This undermines the carrying capacity of the river and will pave the way for its drying up creating water crisis for blind corporate profits. 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. It may be noted 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 it is revealed in the MoU that the company’s project is likely to meet additional water requirement through borewells. Its adverse impact also merits serious attention. In addition the company proposes to develop mines for iron ore of 32.5 crore tons (325 million tons), coal of 77 crore tons (770 million tons) and lease for manganese for captive use for 30 years.
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 the land in question cannot be given to the company as it will constitute violation of the CNT Act and Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.  Potka area in East Singhbhum district is densely populated by Adivasis as such it is fully covered under 5th Schedule area and also CNT Act in the constitution of India. This seems to be a case of building an industrial complex usurping historically fertile fields of Potka through collusion of the ruling and opposition parties and officials.

I submit that Jharkhand's Potka villagers are right in stating that company's proposed project in the Vth Schedule, CNT & PESA Area is illegal.

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 Vth Schedule of the Constitution. The PESA is aimed at safeguarding the traditional rights of the tribals to natural resources. The MoU violates those rights. The State Govt’s promises in the MoU are contrary to the interest of the adivasi villagers. These promises expose the anti-people and anti-environment character of the government.

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.

In view of the above, the MoU with the company should be cancelled and villagers need be sincerely assured that their right to land and their right to livelihood will be protected in the face of rampant corporate onslaught on natural resources in the State.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
Mb: 09818089660
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc//
Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal
Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha
Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal
Shri Avinash Kumar, Secretary, Water Resources Department, Government of Jharkhand
Smt Alka Tiwari, Secretary, Department of Forests and Environment, Government of Jharkhand
Dr. Mahendra Mahto, Member Secretary, Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB)
Shri K Shrinivasan, Administrator, Subernarekha Multipurpose Project, Government of Jharkhand
Commissioner, East Singhbhum, Jamshedpur
Shri Vinod Singh, MLA, Jharkhand
Shri Arup Chatterjee, MLA, Jharkhand
Shri K C Mardi, Convener, Gaon Ganrajya Parishad
Sri R. N. Choudhary, Regional Officer, Jamshedpur, JSPCB
   



    




 



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