Corporate Greed For Coal Is Threatening To Destroy Adivasi Livelihoods In Chhattisgarh

By Madhura Chakraborty:

In 14 villages under eight panchayats in Tamnar Block of Chhattisgarh, Adani is eyeing over 115 acres of land and forests to mine coal.

Umeshsingh Sidar, the president of Sarpanch Sangh in Tamnar block of Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh, is angry. “The officials sent us a notice that in these 14 villages, they want the gram sabhas (village councils) to give permission to acquire and mine in our land. This includes land given to the indigenous people for farming, forests, rivers and lakes. Essentially it is a plan to displace us from our homes for coal,” he adds.

Community Correspondent Rajesh Gupta’s report reveals that the gram sabhas have also been threatened with arrest if they refuse to comply. So far, there have been three gram sabha meetings – and each time, the people have overwhelmingly voted against the move to acquire their land. Savita Rath, a popular movement’s leader in this region adds, “There are eight coal mines and 56 power plants in this region. The resulting environmental pollution affects not only the villagers but even farming, the forests and wildlife. If the government refuses to listen to us, the people’s representatives here are ready to take the fight to the courts, alongside building a popular movement.”

The adverse effects of mining coal in this region are well-documented. From a polluted Kelo river (that flows through Tamnar) to the reduced production of forest produce (like mahua and tendu leaves), the coal pollutants have not even spared the residents from respiratory diseases. Adani’s record, from Australia to Goa, also doesn’t leave much to the imagination. If Adani succeeds in arm-twisting its way into the 14 villages in Tamnar, it will directly affect over 16,000 people. The irony is that India has reiterated its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord and the government is also increasingly moving away from thermal energy, as clean solar power is becoming cheaper.

Community Correspondent Rajesh Gupta’s report reveals once more what is an oft-repeated story: marginalised people, particularly the Dalits and Adivasis are dispensable. They can be threatened, fired upon, forced to work in terrible conditions at low wages, migrate and live in poverty while the coal mined from their lands power air-conditioned flats of the urban middle-class and the rich.

The people of Tamnar are not silent. All 61 panchayats in Tamnar have come together to protest. They have taken out protest rallies and submitted their demands in writing to the officials. The question remains, do we want to remain silent spectators on the sidelines – as the land, forests, water and lives get slowly destroyed?

To help the people of Tamnar in their fight against corporate greed, call the district collector of Raigarh on +91-9425532380 and ask her to suspend the forcible acquisition of land in Tamnar block.

Video by Community Correspondent Rajesh Gupta

The author is a member of the Video Volunteers editorial team.