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News & Views on the Revolutionary Left

A Singur in The Making

Public Sector Displacement

NTPC’s coalmining venture faces stiff opposition from farmers who won’t leave their land and from experts who fear damage to prehistoric megaliths

Sixty-five-year-old Chandru Sao, 65, a farmer at Barkagaon in Hazaribagh district in northern Jharkhand, says his family has never had to go hungry, thanks to the seven acres of fertile farmland that he owns.

But these are desperate times — the public sector giant National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has started the process of acquiring land for its maiden, ambitious coalmine project at Punkhri-Barwadih, a small town 30 kilometres southwest of Hazaribagh town. Sao says he would rather die than be parted from his land. Thousands of farmers, small and big, in Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh face the same predicament.

With tempers rising, the sleepy hamlets around Punkhri-Barwadih have all the makings of turning into another Singur – a flashpoint of people’s violent resistance to the prospect of losing their fertile farmland to an industrial venture.

Apart from the loss of over 10,000 acres of well-irrigated three-crop farmland, and dense forests, NTPC’s planned opencast coalmine is likely to obliterate, or at the very least damage irreparably, Punkhri-Barwadih’s megaliths — some of the last vestiges of a prehistoric civilisation which flourished in the region.

The Rs 4,000-crore Punkhri-Barwadih project is NTPC’s first ever foray into coalmining. Scheduled to commence operations in December 2007, it will displace some 14,000 families.

In November 2006, a mob of thousands of farmers tore down NTPC’s project-site office at Barkagaon. Six were arrested and there seems to be a lull for now.
But, as a Tehelka investigation discovered, that is because villagers in the remote hamlets in this Naxal-infested region are busy re-organising themselves for a stronger assault before the process of land acquisition begins. Read More>>>

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posted by Bimal 26.1.07,


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