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India: Uncovering the story of how a people’s movement in Jharkhand was duped by a Coal Mining company

8 May 2015

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NEW DELHI: 6th MAY 2015, Coallateral, a report by The Research Collective (TRC) of Programme for Social Action was released at the Constitution Club today in the presence of members of the Independent People’s Tribunal, Adv Prasant Bhushan, Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Frontline) and Dr Ramesh Saran and representatives of Rajmahal Pahad Bachao Andolan (RPBA) from Pakur district, Jharkhand. The report documents the first-of-its-kind MoU, signed in 2006, between a mining company, PANEM Coal Mines Ltd. and a people’s movement, RPBA. This was followed by a vibrant session of panel discussion on the same by Dr. Nandini Sunder (Delhi School of Economics), Philip Kujur (BIRSA, MMC), Ashok Chowdhary (AIUFWP) Gopinath Gosh (Human Rights Desk, BIRSA) and Lakshmi Premkumar (TRC).

The Pachwara Central Coal Block now de-allocated from PANEM, but re-allocated to the Punjab State Electricity Board (now PSPCL) formed a Joint venture with EMTA to mine the Block. The Coal Block has now been re-alloted to PSPCL. Contextualizing the present condition of the villagers with the findings of the Independent People’s Tribunal constituted in Ranchi in November 2014, the report raises crucial questions on the nature and circumstances of negotiations where the community was coerced into signing an MoU that lacked legal validity with the company it had stiffly opposed. It establishes that while only 6 out of the 40 provisions in the MoU have been adhered to till date, adverse effects on the community and environment have not been mitigated. Since 2001, a number of RPBA activists or their family members have died under suspicious circumstances including the case of Sr Valsa’s murder.

Speaking at the release, Adv. Prashant Bhushan pointed to the glaring violations of the rights of the community by PANEM. He stated that this affirms the apathetic position taken by the government in favour of private players whilst ignoring the needs of people affected by mining. As the report notes, the MoU was signed as an out-of-court settlement after the Andolan lost the case in the Jharkhand High Court. Dr. Ramesh Sharan, as well as other panelists pointed out that the high court judgment is in clear violation of a key legislation that governs land tenure in Jharkhand, the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949 and the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.


“Coallateral”: A Report of the Independent People’s Tribunal on the MoU between Rajmahal Pahad Bachao Andolan and PANEM Coal Mines
The Research Collective, April 2015