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King gift turns lab’s gauntlet

Dhanbad, April 15: Barely 13 days old and birth pangs are bugging the Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR), a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory, consolidated out of Dhanbad-based Central Mining Research Institute (CMRI) and Central Fuel Research Institute (CFRI).

For the ambitious institute of the Union government to meet the country’s energy demands, the first roadblock has come in the form of a letter faxed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the ex-officio president of CSIR.

Shot off on Friday by Bishweshwar Prasad Singh, grandson of Late Shiv Prasad Singh, erstwhile king of Jharia, who had gifted the land for CFRI to CSIR in 1946, the letter has now reclaimed it. Singh claimed the 150 acres from CSIR on the grounds that the purpose for which it was given no more holds water after consolidation of CFRI and CMRI.

“It cannot be accepted as it was it was not the condition of the gift,” said junior Singh. He has asked the Prime Minister to either restore the status of CFRI or hand over the land to the descendants of the king.

According to the agreement between the then CSIR head Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and the Jharia king, the land was given for establishing the central fuel research station (later “station” was replaced by “institute”) for the benefit of coal and coal products in the region for the country.

A communiqué by the king’s then attorney Benimadhav Tewari to the first CSIR head S.S. Bhatnagar in September 1946 also mentioned that the land was “not transferable and should be used solely for ‘legitimate’ purposes of CSIR research in the coalfield”.

CFRI is the oldest lab of CSIR. It came into existence along with CSIR in September 1946. Its first director was J.W. Whitaker.

Lawyers say the claim of junior Singh is untenable.

“A zamindar cannot gift the government. It can only take land on lease. After the abolition of the zamindari system, most land was vested with the government,” explained local lawyer Subroto Banerjee.

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