MP moots NTPC truce plan- Sinha holds meet to resolve row over land compensation
Atwo-hour-long meeting chaired by Union minister Jayant Sinha to broker peace with local residents opposing NTPC coal mining projects, failed to resolve the deadlock over compensation even after the Hazaribagh MP put forth a set of options that included leading a delegation of villagers to meet chief minister Raghubar Das for an amicable solution.
Sinha reasoned with the local residents, represented by Barkagaon MLA Nirmala Devi, zilla parishad chairperson Sushila Devi, zilla parishad member from Katkamsandi Priyanka Kumari, besides mukhiyas of various panchayats of Barkagaon, to make it clear that it wasn't within anyone's power to stop NTPC from continuing with their work.
However, he suggested three options. The first, he said, was for NTPC to stop developing the projects any further.
The second option was for private land owners to return the compensation they had accepted from NTPC and take back their land, while the third option was to strike a deal with National Thermal Power Corporation over compensation or other facilities in the area.
Sinha even told the gathering that he was ready to take five representatives from each of the 11 affected villages to chief minister Das for a dialogue and later visit Barkagaon to hear the grievances of the land owners.
"We want transparency in the work and participation of the people. If there has been any injustice by police, I will not support such acts. The guilty must be punished. We all want to arrive at a resolution in a peaceful way without any violence," said Sinha, who came in from Delhi for the meeting and was scheduled to return in the evening.
NTPC is developing three captive coal mining projects, Pankri Barwadih, Chatti Bariatu and Keredari, spread over Barkagaon and Keredari blocks of Hazaribagh district. Of the three, Pankri Barwadih is the largest with 8,000 acres acquired for it.
On May 17, NTPC launched mining operations at Chirudih Barwadih, a part of the Pankhri Barwadih project. This was opposed to by a gathering of over 500 people who demanded that the thermal power major stop work till such time their demand for higher compensation for their land was resolved.
Police resorted to lathi charge to control the belligerent mob after which the protesters alleged that over three dozen men and women were injured.
Opposition leaders, including Babulal Marandi of the JVM along with those of the JMM, RJD and even Congress are supporting the local agitation against NTPC citing unfair compensation to land owners and police atrocities against protesters.
Among the 40-odd leaders who were present at the meeting were state RJD chief Gautam Sagar Rana, JVM leader Shivlalmahto, local leader Mithilesh Dangi and former Barkagaon MLA Loknath Mahto,
NTPC was represented by deputy general manager (HR) S. K. Tiwary.
At the meeting, which ended at 5.30pm, local residents and leaders primarily complained about police high-handedness and alleged that NTPC had violated the law by acquiring fertile land for its mining project.
RJD'S Rana accused NTPC of using force to acquire land for its Pankri Barwadih project. "Riyats weren't ready to give up their fertile land that can produce three crops a year. Therefore, as per the land acquisition act of 2013, no one can take the land," he said, adding that they wanted an immediate stop to the mining work at Chirudih till such time the magisterial report on the May 17 police lathi charge on protesters came in.
NTPC'S Tiwary, refused to comment apart from stressing that the company had all along acted as per the law of the land.
MLA Nirmala Devi said she would always remember the police lathicharge of May 17. "Pregnant women were also beaten up. The police have no right to beat up people in such a way in a democracy. Under such circumstances, we will not allow NTPC to continue work," she said.
Zilla parishad chairperson Sushila Devi also accused the police of extreme reaction. "Police beat up protesters, including women. I was a witness to the incident. Such brutal action cannot be tolerated," she said.
JAYANT SINHA CHAIRS A MEETING AT THE DISTRICT COLLECTORATE IN HAZARIBAGH