Luring investors, battling land acquisition go together in Jharkhand

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Ranchi, Aug 5 (IANS) While BJP-AJSU government in Jharkhand is holding road shows to attract investors, the opposition has stepped up its protests against land acquisition and changes made in two laws that protect the rights of tribals.

On Thursday, while Chief Minister Raghubar Das held a road show in New Delhi, leaders of the opposition parties went to Hazaribagh district to court arrest to protest acquisition of land by National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for the Pakri-Barwadidh coal mining project.

The opposition leaders courted arrest in response to an FIR lodged against them, but the police refused to make the arrests on the ground that the investigation was going on.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik (JVM-P) and the Congress have joined hands to protest against the state government’s move to use the ordinance route to make changes in the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPT).

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Enacted in 1908, the CNT Act restricts transfer of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes. However, a tribal may transfer his land through sale, exchange, gift or will it to a fellow Scheduled Tribe member and residents of his own police station area.

The SPT Act also protects the land rights of Jharkhand’s Santhal tribe who primarily inhabit six districts: Dumka, Deoghar, Godda, Pakur, Sahibganj and Jamtara.

The opposition alleges that the government of Raghubar Das, a non-tribal chief minister, wants to change the two laws to make it easier for its crony industrialists to acquire land in restricted tribal areas.

The state assembly has already witnessed disruptions over the issue.

Jharkhand Congress spokesman Rakesh Sinha told IANS that the party would hold an agitation on August 9, the World Tribal Day, against the ordinance sent to the President of India to make changes in the two laws.

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A JMM delegation led by party chief Shibu Soren and former chief minister Hemant Soren met the President three days ago and demanded that the ordinance be returned to the state.

The opposition leaders have also united against land acquisition made by the NTPC and “undue favours” being accorded to private companies in land acquisition.

The Pakri-Barwadidh coal block in Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh was allocated to NTPC in 2010 but work could not start due to local villagers’ protest. In the past, police has used fire power against the protesters, in which one villager was klled.

Top opposition leaders, who went to Hazaribagh to court arrest, included former chief Minister Babulal Marandi, former central Minister Subodhkant Sahay, JD-U state president Gautam Sagar Rana, and local Congress MLA Nirmala Devi.

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An FIR was lodged against these leaders and 400 people on July 24 for allegedly trespassing on a prohibited mining area. The opposition leaders had gone to meet villagers who are opposing land acquisition for NTPC’s upcoming coal block in Pakri-Barwadidh.

“The fight which is going on since 2004 will continue until we win,” said Marandi.

Jharkhand is currently ruled by a coalition of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU).



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