Chief minister Arjun Munda at the state Assembly on Monday. (Prashant Mitra)
Ranchi, Dec. 3: The state government iterated its hands-off policy in the ongoing blockade at Pachuara in support of oustees of a coal project amid several adjournments of the Assembly today after the Opposition demanded a full-fledged discussion on the agitation that has stopped supplies from Panem Coalfields Limited near Dumka.
In the end, after a series of adjournments through the day, the Opposition settled for a call attention motion on the controversy. It will now have to be taken up within the next three days — December 6 is the last day of the session.
Chief minister Arjun Munda chose to stay silent on the issue. But his deputy, Hemant Soren, clarified that since the representatives of displaced families had entered into an out-of-court settlement with Panem on their own in 2006, the state government could not now become a party to it.
“But, all of us are deeply concerned about the problems being faced by the displaced families. Our officials are in regular touch with the company’s management to work out an amicable solution at the earliest,” he said about the 18-day-old agitation by Rajmahal Pahari Bachao Andolan Samiti that has the active support of JVM chief Babulal Marandi and Congress leader Stephen Marandi.
Soren said allegations of tax and royalty evasions against the company were also being probed. “But, stalling the functioning of the House is no solution,” he added.
Earlier, the Opposition joined hands to demand an immediate discussion on Panem. But, Speaker C.P. Singh rejected their adjournment motion, advising JVM legislature Party leader Pradeep Yadav to opt for a call attention motion.
“It is ridiculous that on the one hand you are insisting on an adjournment motion which I have already rejected. On the other hand, you have also given a call attention notice on the same issue, which I have accepted. Let the House proceed smoothly and your views will come on record in due course,” the Speaker reasoned.
Yadav, however, claimed his adjournment motion was in consonance with rules of executive business. He offered to withdraw the motion if the state government agreed to fulfil three of his demands.
He asked the state government to send a secretary-ranked officer to mediate between agitating villagers and Panem, form a three-member committee comprising secretary-ranked officials to probe the matter, and assess the correct weight of coal loaded onto 73 trucks that were prevented from leaving the factory premises in Amrapara.
The Opposition had been in a belligerent mood since the beginning of the day’s proceedings around 11am. Seeking an adjournment motion on the issue they even stormed the Well and raised slogans, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House till noon.
When the House assembled again, the Opposition continued to disrupt proceedings. JVM leader Samresh Singh even snatched headphones from Assembly officials as a mark of protest. The House was again adjourned till 2 pm.
As a result, Question Hour could not be held.
The AJSU, an ally of the ruling coalition headed by the BJP, also joined the Oppition protests. MLAs Umakant Rajak, Ramchandra Sahis, Kamal Kishore Bhagat and Navin Jaiswal sat on a dharna on the Assembly premises demanding rehabilitation of families displaced by HEC and electricity for villages in Chandankiyari block of Bokaro.
Finally leader of Opposition Rajendra Prasad Singh and parliamentary affairs minister Hemlal Murmu managed to persuade them to take part in the House prceedings at the behest of the Speaker.
By the end the day, a second supplementary budget for the current fiscal and Jharkhand Appropriation of Accounts Bill 2012 were passed in the House.