Jin­dals grab tribal land worth crores in Ch­hat­tis­garh

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE -

In Au­gust 2009, Santram died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances. His wife Sushila Paikara, the le­gal heir to land worth sev­eral mil­lion ru­pees, still lives in a two- room mud hut.

“They ( Jin­dal em­ploy­ees) took away my hus­band’s death cer­tifi­cate, promis­ing me a reg­u­lar job at the plant,” she told dna.

How­ever, she was not al­lowed to work even as a con­tract labourer. Jin­dals have al­legedly bought around 39 acres of land in the name of Santram at Saras­mal, Tam­nar, Ram­pur and other places. What’s more, they have cre­ated many Santrams.

“Jin­dal buys land in the name of his poor tribal em­ploy­ees. Some are not even lo­cal trib­als! They are parachuted from Odisha or other states, which is also against the law. It’s pri­mar­ily a case of Sec­tion 420 of IPC,” says Ra­jesh Tri­pathi, a lo­cal RTI ac­tivist run­ning Jan Chetna, a plat­form fight­ing for the rights of trib­als for more than two dec- ades now.

Ear­lier this month, Ch­hat­tis­garh or­dered that non- lo­cals or com­pa­nies pos­sess­ing tribal land should trans­fer it back to lo­cal trib­als. About 70 acres of land were so trans­ferred in the Dharam­jaigarh area. Many trib­als, a se­nior lo­cal of­fi­cial re­quest­ing anonymity said, even went for “out- of- the- court set­tle­ment”.

A 35- page work­ing pa­per on ‘ Land Ac­qui­si­tion and Trans­fers for Pri­vate In­dus­try’ in Raigarh, pre­pared by the Delhi- based Cen­tre for Equity Stud­ies and Jan Chetna in De­cem­ber last year, states, “A fairly com­mon prac­tice re­vealed dur­ing sur­veys in­volved sell­ing land to tribal em­ploy­ees of a com­pany or a tribal bro­ker, thus mak­ing the ac­tual sale le­gal. The use of this land by the com­pany, none­the­less, re­mains il­le­gal and ob­tain­ing this land via its em­ploy­ees is a clear vi­o­la­tion of these rules.”

Sushila’s house is lo­cated in the mid­dle of Sal­i­hab­hant­tha vil­lage – around 300 me­ters away from the Jin­dal Power plant. But her house doesn’t have elec­tric­ity for the past two weeks.

Most Tam­nar na­tives fall be­low poverty line and work as daily labour­ers, ei­ther at Jin­dal Power or the com­pany’s coal mine in nearby Saras­mal vil­lage.

“Santram never talked about any land deal till his death. Some vil­lagers did men­tion about it, but I al­ways dis­missed it as a ru­mour as I knew he had no money. He just earned Rs 4,000- 5,000 a month,” says Sushila.

“I just man­age to get job 12- 15 days a month,” she adds. She has rented one room of her hut for Rs 500 a month, to fund the ed­u­ca­tion of her only son, Om Prakash, 14.

An­dresh, a for­mer Jin­dal em­ployee at its Pa­tra­pali plant near Raigarh, is an­other ex­am­ple. This re­porter was de­tained, as­saulted and threat­ened at Pa­tra­pali by a group of drunken men while in­ter­view­ing a lo­cal resi- dent Mo­han from Uraon caste, to which An­dresh be­longs.

“He used to live here on rent and was the sarpanch of the vil­lage from 2004- 2010,” Mo­han said. This re­porter was then chased away from the vil­lage by the drunken goons. An­dresh re­tired from Jin­dal four months back and his son Ra­jat now works as se­cu­rity guard in the com­pany.

“Com­pany of­fi­cials in the lia­son­ing de­part­ment asked me to sign some pa­pers and told me they are buy­ing land in my name, I think around 2008- 2009. I signed. But I didn’t get any money,” An­dresh told over phone.

He has mi­grated back to his vil­lage in Konkuri, in Jaspur dis­trict, 150 km from Pa­tra­pali, and lives with his nine fam­ily mem­bers. He earned Rs 22,000 a month as Jin­dal em­ployee and is now await­ing re­tire­ment ben­e­fits.

“I don’t know how much land they bought in my name,” he added. As per the 170 ( b) list, An- dresh has bought land in Saras­mal and Tam­nar where Jin­dal’s coal mine and power plant is lo­cated.

Another tribal in whose name land has been bought is Nav­bodh Pra­maat in Jan­j­gir vil­lage. Vil­lagers say there’s no­body by that name liv­ing there. “Maybe he is an out­sider and has been reg­is­tered here in lo­cal pan­chayat. In fact, no­body of Uraon caste lives in this vil­lage,” Shoki Lal, a lo­cal res­i­dent said. Around 15 acres of land in Saras­mal are reg­is­tered in the name of Pra­maat.

Two other trib­als in whose name around 20 acres of land bought af­ter 2008 – cur­rently in pos­ses­sion of Jin­dal – are Shuru Kis­han, a res­i­dent of Sal­i­hab­hant­tha, and Asaf Ku­mar of Tam­nar. How­ever, none of them were liv­ing in the re­spec­tive vil­lages. Lo­cals in Sal­i­ha­bant­tha told dna that Asaf Ku­mar now lives in ‘ Urja Na­gar’, con­structed by Jin­dal for em­ploy­ees, while Shuru Kis­han Man­jhi works in a can­teen at the power plant.

Apart from Jin­dals, a few other in­dus­tri­al­ists are also there in the area. They also pos­sess land reg­is­tered in the name of trib­als.

Jin­dal Group re­futed all al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ings in any land deal or prop­erty in their pos­ses­sion.

“The land we pos­sess has been ac­quired through a le­gal process. We don’t know why the gov­ern­ment has put our name in the 170 ( b) list. This case will not stand in the court even for a day. We have writ­ten our re­ply to the gov­ern­ment,” said D K Bhar­gava of JPL’s lia­son­ing de­part­ment, who is also the front man in al­most all land deals that take place in Raigarh.

Bhar­gava claimed they have sub­mit­ted all com­pen­sa­tion claims against all land own­ers is un­der Jin­dal’s pos­ses­sion with the rev­enue de­part­ment.

“Santram’s wife should ap­proach the gov­ern­ment for dam­ages. We’ve done out part,” Bhar­gava said.

Hy­der­abad: The toll in the GAIL pipe­line fire in East Go­davari dis­trict of Andhra Pradesh rose to 16 with the death of a girl on Satur­day, while six per­sons were bat­tling for life with se­vere burns. Fif­teen per­sons were killed and more than 20 in­jured when ap­par­ently leak­ing gas pipe­line of GAIL caught fire and trig­gered a se­ries of blasts at Na­garam vil­lage in the coastal dis­trict, about 560 km from Hy­der­abad, on Fri­day. “A baby girl, un­der­go­ing treat­ment for se­vere burns, died at a pri­vate hos­pi­tal in Kak­i­nada on Satur­day,” po­lice said. Mean­while, the joint sec­re­tary in Petroleum min­istry RP Singh has com­menced the probe into the in­ci­dent and vis­ited the Na­garam vil­lage where the fire and ex­plo­sions had swept through nearby houses and co­conut plan­ta­tions.

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