RAIPUR: The villagers sitting on dharna at Udaipur block in Ambikapur district recalled how Rahul Gandhi visited them in June 2015 at Madanpur pledging his support to the people’s protest against the coal mines in the Hasdeo-Arand coalfield region but the Chhattisgarh government led by Congress now “ignores” their plea.
The very biodiversity-rich Hasdeo-Arand coalfield region was declared ‘No-Go’ area for mining in 2010 by Jairam Ramesh, then Union Minister for environment and forest.
Rahul Gandhi at Madanpur had affirmed that the Congress party is in favour development but the consent of villagers must be sought ahead of coal block allocation.
Now it has been a month since hundreds of villagers have relentlessly held indefinite demonstrations seeking cancellation of land acquisition and environment clearances to projects on mining of coal blocks in Hasdeo Arand forested region where around 20 coal blocks have been identified in the coalfields.
As of now 8 blocks in the coalfields been auctioned.
With the Congress-ruled state government yet to respond, the villagers continue fighting for their rights over ‘jal-jungle-jameen’ and observed ‘Rajya Bachao Utsav’ (save the state) when the entire Chhattisgarh was busy celebrating its 20th Foundation Day festival in the first week of November.
“I have spoken to villagers who are from four districts. They have been demonstrating and seeking assurance in writing by the state. They didn’t give me their memorandum of demands”, said Subhash Shukla, Udaipur tehsildar.
However, activists retorted saying that the memorandum was already given to the Chief Minister and the collectors of Surajpur, Korba and Jashpur in the previous month. But nothing moved so far. “How long we will just keep giving our memorandum? The administration looks adamant when it comes to Corporates.
There have been fake gram sabhas on coal mining allocation issue, but no FIR has been lodged.
The area does not just fall under the No-Go area for the coal mines but also figure under the 5th Scheduled Area.
Without their consent, the land cannot be taken but this provision is being violated. The state government has failed to address the issue”, alleged Alok Shukla, convener of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (organisation fighting for forest rights of tribals and the mining issues).
Other activists too charged the state government of practising double standard. “There cannot be different sets of rule for different people in the 5th Scheduled Area.
When the government can be sensitive to issues of Bastar tribals, the same should be for the people in Sarguja region too. Rahul Gandhi firmly stood with the villagers’ campaign against coal mining in No-Go area in 2015”, they stated.