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Govt wait mode over Panem
- State stays off talks table, JVM protests in Ranchi

Ranchi, Nov. 29: The Arjun Munda government continues to defy Babulal Marandi’s call to mediate and resolve the ongoing anti-Panem agitation in Pakur, reluctant to play into the hands of the Opposition even as the JVM protested in Ranchi today on the eve of the winter session of the Assembly.

JVM president Babulal Marandi, along with Congress’s Stephen Marandi have been on a dharna for the past two weeks demanding a tripartite agreement between the government, Panem Coal Mines Limited and Raj Mahal Pahar Bachao Andolan Samiti to complete all welfare projects promised by the company within a given time frame.

The protesters have alleged that the company has not honoured an MoU, which it had signed in 2006 before starting operations, that promised an elaborate rehabilitation package to the displaced in Pachuara, Pakur.

Babulal Marandi has been maintaining that he would hold talks only with the managing director of the Panem, Ujjwal Upadhyay, and finalise the deadline for the company to extend its promises.

However, sources at the chief minister’s secretariat said Munda has asked chief secretary S.K. Choudhary and home secretary J.B. Tubid to keep a close eye on the developments in Pakur, but the government would not succumb to pressure tactics.

“Is the politicians expecting the government to mediate with the top management of Panem? The company has been maintaining that they have been extending benefits to the displaced as per the rehabilitation package offered. If there is any specific complaint, the agitating leaders should have welcomed issue-based talks with the Pakur district administration and Panem directors who had approached them,” said a senior bureaucrat requesting anonymity.

Earlier, attempts by Pakur-based senior officials of Panem and deputy commissioner (DC) Sunil Kumar to bring leaders to the talks table had proved futile.

Panem officials, on the other hand, have stated that the leaders were “thoroughly misinformed” and “the rehabilitation package worked out by the company and approved by both the state and central governments is one of the best in the country”.

N. Kumar, executive director of Panem Coal Mines Limited, said they were uncertain when the deadlock would end.

“We are sitting idle in our office, literally doing nothing, as a host of political party leaders and their followers have laid siege to the plant’s activities for the last 14 days. We have not received any communiqué from the office of the managing director, but we are alerting our higher-ups about the developments on a day-to-day basis,” Kumar told The Telegraph over phone from Pakur.

Company sources revealed that Pachuara coal block sent supplies mainly to three power plants of Punjab. In a given day, six rakes of coal (20,000-22,000 tonne) are sent via rail.

Pakur additional collector S.K. Diwary, who is also the in-charge DC, rued, “The agitators are interested only in meeting the top management of the company.”

The agitation against Panem — a joint venture of Punjab State Electricity Board and EMTA Group — has already resulted in a dip in power supply in Punjab, as coal supply to the northern state from its biggest source has stopped completely due to the JVM-led economic blockade in Pakur.

The JVM, meanwhile, clarified that its campaign was not aimed at plunging Punjab into darkness.

“We are not opposed to excavation of coal and its transportation to Punjab. But, being social watchdogs, it is our responsibility to check plunder of our resources. It is ridiculous that though our party president is sitting on a dharna in Amrapara for the last 14 days, but no one from the government or EMTA has come forward to end the stalemate,” party’s principal general secretary Pradeep Yadav told The Telegraph.

Earlier today, JVM supporters took out a procession to Raj Bhavan and submitted a memorandum to the governor, a day ahead of the Assembly winter session that will end on December 6.

The JVM’s demands to Governor Syed Ahmed included thorough execution of the 2006 MoU by Panem and a CBI probe into the murder of Sister Valsa John on November 16, 2011, and the company’s two senior executives in October 2009.

However, with Panem cautioning Punjab of a worsening power crisis and no immediate end in sight to the economic blockade in Pakur, the hands-off attitude of the Jharkhand government puts a question mark over its ability to reassure prospective big-ticket investors.