Asansol, Dec. 11: A land agitation has forced Bharat Coking Coal Ltd to scrap a mining project near Asansol and explore options in neighbouring Jharkhand.
“We had no option but to cancel the project following protests from the villagers. They want jobs in BCCL immediately. We told them that getting documents verified and allotting them jobs on the basis of their qualifications take time. But they want the appointment letters before their plots are registered,” said Tarasish Mandal, the BCCL general manager of the Church Victoria area in Barakar.
Around 150 families in Damagoria whose 200 acres had been identified by the public-sector Coal India subsidiary in 2003 squatted on their plots and prevented BCCL officials from carrying out a survey for the open-cast mine on December 5.
BCCL today announced it would identify land in Jharkhand after the Bengal project failed to materialise.
The company said it had already finalised jobs for 70 people but would require at least a couple of months to issue the appointment letters. “A member from each family would get a job according to our rule of providing employment to any family that will give more than two acres. But they refused to listen to us,” Mandal said.
According to BCCL officials, the company expected little help from the administration in the wake of the government’s hands-off policy on land acquisition, which led to clashes in Birbhum’s Loba.
“After the Loba clash, we did not want any trouble. We will set up another project somewhere in Jharkhand,” a BCCL engineer said.
The BCCL, which has most of its mines in Jharkhand and only one in Barakar in Bengal, had decided to set up the open-cast mine with a target of extracting 4,000 tones of coal daily. They were to be supplied mostly to power plants in the area such as Damodar Valley Corporation.
The villagers, who also prevented the bhumipujan last week, are being backed by Trinamul, the Congress, the CPM and Forward Block.
Local Trinamul leader Baban Mukherjee said the villagers would give land only after being issued appointment letters. “If the coal company refuses to give us jobs after we give our land for the open-cast mine, who will be responsible? We want jobs now,” he said.
A CPM leader in the area, Sujit Mukherjee, said his party would have wanted the mine to come up in the village but not at the cost of the villagers’ interest.
“The villagers demanded jobs and the BCCL will have to give in to their demands if they want the project here. We will have no objection if the villagers change their mind to give their land to the company,” he said.
Congress leader Kinesh Mondal and former Forward Block MLA in the area Maniklal Acharya echoed the other parties.