Chief minister Hemant Soren greets NTPC CMD Arup Roy Choudhury in Ranchi on Wednesday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, July 31: Chief minister Hemant Soren has made it clear that while his government favoured industry, coercion was a complete no-no, the assertion coming a week after the July 23 tragedy when police bullets killed a protesting villager at Keredari in Hazaribagh, where NTPC is constructing an office for its Chatti Bariatu coal project.
At an hour-long meeting with NTPC chairman and managing director Arup Roy Choudhury and other officials today, Hemant was categorical. “We are pro-industry but only if villagers are taken into confidence. Balpoorwak kuch nahin hona chahiye (Nothing should happen forcibly),” he said.
Earlier, the chief minister had reacted strongly to the villager’s death and clarified that his government “would not allow industrialisation or mining at gunpoint”.
On Saturday, Hemant even refused to meet a delegation of senior NTPC officials, insisting he would like to hold talks only when their chairman-cum-managing director came to meet him. Today, Roy Choudhury flew in from New Delhi, signifying that the power major, with high stakes in Jharkhand, wanted to mollify the state government.
Brahmaputra Infrastructure Ltd has recently been awarded an order worth Rs 5,338.42 crore by NTPC for development and operation of Chatti Bariatu coal mining block for a period of 24 years in consortium with BLA Projects Private Limited and GSCO Infrastructure Limited.
With Choudhury were director (human resources) U.P. Pani, director (operations) N.N. Mishra, executive director (security) Anand Kumar (IPS) and executive director Arja Srikanth.
Hemant met them in the presence of his principal secretary Sukhdeo Singh and chief secretary R.S. Sharma.
Talking to mediapersons after the meeting, NTPC boss Choudhury said the PSU was in no way involved in the police firing. But pressed, he added: “We can comment on the issue only after a thorough inquiry.” He left for New Delhi in an afternoon flight.
On July 23, after a stand-off between NTPC contractor and villagers over the construction of the office for the power major’s Chatti Bariatu coal mining project at Pagaar village, Keredari block, police stepped in.
In an overzealous attempt to quash the agitation, the police fired at the crowd in which Keshar Mahto (52) was killed and Nanhu Mahto (45), Rahul Mahto (19) and Malkhan Verma (31) were injured.
Chatti-Bariatu project, allocated to NTPC in 2005-06, has had a chequered past. Villager protests slowed it down, it got de-allocated in 2011 and again re-allocated in 2012. The police firing, however, is its biggest crisis so far.
According to NTPC sources, CMD Choudhury had taken responsibility to treat the injured. Hemant asked the NTPC team to submit within a week a report on how much compensation would be paid to the kin of the deceased.
Hemant also asked NTPC to immediately remove the contractor at Pagaar village.
The government had ordered its own probe on July 25. A two-member team of North Chotanagpur commissioner Nitin Madan Kulkarni and IG coal belt Murari Lal Meena started investigation on July 25 and would present its report to the government by August 2.
At present, NTPC is pursuing Pankri-Barwadih, Chatti-Bariatu and Keredari coal mining projects, all in Hazaribagh. “The first to start operations will be Pankri-Barwadih followed by Chatti Bariatu,” an NTPC senior official said.
“These projects are very crucial for us,” he said.
The power major is facing coal crisis in Farakka (Bengal) and Kahalgaon (Bihar) projects. Coal from Jharkhand will not only feed upcoming North Karanpura super thermal power plant in the districts of Hazaribagh and Chatra, but also to power plants of the PSU in Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.
The PSU major has 47 power units, of which 40 are coal-based and seven are gas-based.