NTPC truce with squatters

NTPC's plan to develop three coal blocks in Jharkhand, held up since 2005 because of violent land protests across Hazaribagh district, may finally see the light of day with the PSU coming to an understanding with local residents on compensation.

By VISHVENDU JAiPURIAR in Hazaribagh
  • Published 18.04.15
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Hazaribagh, April 17: NTPC's plan to develop three coal blocks in Jharkhand, held up since 2005 because of violent land protests across Hazaribagh district, may finally see the light of day with the PSU coming to an understanding with local residents on compensation.

Today, National Thermal Power Corporation agreed to pay villagers, who have been farming illegally on government land and have been classified as "encroachers" by the district administration, to ensure that work could begin at the three coal blocks of Pankri Barwadih, Chatti Bariatu and Keredari.

Of the 8,100 acres NTPC acquired for the three projects, 1,200 acres is government land, while the rest include private and forest land (see box).

At a meeting with deputy commissioner Mukesh Kumar, the executive director of NTPC's Pankri Barwadih project, Ravindra Singh Rathi, unveiled a formula for compensating around 400 local farmers who have been holding on to " gair mazrua", or government land for decades.

Rathi said those who have been using the land for more than 30 years or more would be paid Rs 15 lakh per acre, while others, living there for a number of years would be paid Rs 10 lakh per acre.

NTPC, he added, had also agreed to increase compensation for 8,337 private land owners from Rs 15 lakh per acre to Rs 20 lakh.

With today's decision, decks have been cleared to begin work on the three coal mining projects spread over two blocks of Hazaribagh district: Pankri Barwadih, Chatti Bariatu and Keredari.

"We can now start pre-mining work and hope that everything goes well from now on," Rathi said, adding that once the projects were ready, the captive mines were expected to yield as much 15 million tonne coal a year.

Barkagaon and Keredari are part of the state's green bowl, known for producing vegetables.

The area of the three projects begins from Pankri Barwadih village, which is 18km from Hazaribagh district headquarters, and extends 60km, up to Keredari on the border of Tandwa in Chatra.

According to NTPC officials, around 5,000 acres is being used at Pankri Barwadih, 1,500 acres at Chatti Bariatu and the remaining in the Keredari coal block.

Today's meeting was held in the presence of former agriculture minister Yogendra Sao, his wife and Barkagaon Congress MLA Nirmala, both of whom were at the forefront of land protests against NTPC that ultimately led to the company missing its first deadline to complete the project in 2010.

Sao, who had to resign as agriculture minister last year during the chief ministerial tenure of Hemant Soren and was subsequently arrested for patronising extortion gangs, is now on bail.

"Now, my wife and I will cooperate with the project," Sao said, but asked deputy commissioner Kumar to ensure that the culture of middlemen be put to an end.

Nirmala requested NTPC to initiate development work, but cautioned the executive director against "snatching" land belonging to poor farmers.