Monday, May 20, 2013
Last Updated: 19 May 20:04 PM IST
18 November 2012
Issue 1 ~ The Trinamul government will make a grave mistake if it puts down the Birbhum unrest to Left/Maoist mischief
The Bengal government must be knowing that all natural resources, including coal, belong to the nation and citizens have both birth and legal right to excavate, mine and process minerals after conforming to certain rules and regulations. Landowners having only surface rights can neither demand any share in the resources ensconced below their land nor can they prevent any authorised mining lessee from occupying such land for a specific period subject to advance payment of appropriate compensation as determined by district magistrates concerned without any change in the ownership rights of the landowners.
After the mines are depleted, the damaged surfaces have to be reclaimed and restored for cultivation or dwelling and returned to landowners as per land records. Since for a specific period the land owners will be deprived of their surface rights, the district magistrate, with the help of experts, will determine the notional loss per acre per annum and declare the amount of compensation that must be honoured and accepted by both the mining lessees and landowners. However, before the district magistrates start computing relevant data, both the affected landowners and mining lessees must declare that they would abide by the verdict of the magistrate concerned. Mining lessees are not allowed to buy ownership right to any land within the leased area, especially those used by tribals, but must pay appropriate compensation to the affected surface owners and return the mined area to them after proper reclamation.
It would seem both the erstwhile Left government and the current Trinamul government were not fully aware of the legal provisions. In the first place, why did the previous government allow DVC ~ a public sector mining lessee ~ and its mining/raising contractor Bengal Emta Coal Mines Limited ~ a private entity ~ to purchase the ownership right to some land at attractive prices leading to the gradual involvement of land brokers and mafia sponsored by local politicians at the cost of innocent villagers/cultivators/share-croppers? Secondly, why did the Trinamul government allow DVC and Bengal Emta to send heavy earth-moving equipment to the leased area without the consent of landowners and before they had accepted the stipulated ‘compensation’ as per conditions specified in the mining lease deed?
Instead of blaming the Leftists and Maoists for the mess, the Bengal government should immediately stop all mining activities and the district magistrate should invite representatives of both land owners and DVC so that a fair compensation per acre per annum can be worked out without any sale of surface rights involved. The DVC is supposed to mine for captive use of its power plants and not for profiteering by selling or exporting coal. Of the 3,000-odd acres of leased area, 66 acres are likely to be damaged and depleted of 3 million tonnes of coal annually. By the third year of the lease having come into force, the said 66 acres should be reclaimed and returned to the land owners.
The Bengal government will make a grave mistake if it starts an irresponsible blame game instead of properly administering the mining of precious natural resources.
13 november, salt lake city
The Birbhum incident is the handiwork of the CPI-M that has been striving to wrest control of the area for a long time. The CPI-M is making a systematic effort to malign the incumbent government with the help of the Congress. However, I am confident that farmers will ultimately realise what damage the CPI-M has done to them during its three decades in power. The Trinamul government should take effective action to cover lost ground at the soonest.
12 november, kolkata
The Birbhum unrest has its roots in the Left regime. That’s why villagers avoided former Left minister Anisur Rehman and his allies who wanted to gain mileage from the disturbances. So, it is ridiculous that Bengal’s industries minister Partha Chatterjee should find the CPI-M’s hand as well as that of Maoists in the agitation. He also claimed that the government had given no instructions to the district administration to take action against villagers yet some police officers alleged that Mr Chatterjee had called Birbhum superintendent of police Rishikesh Meena on 24 October, 2012 and instructed him to help DVC-Emta to remove equipment from Loba village. Around 6 a.m. of the day police moved in, the SP had sent text messages to DGP Naparajit Mukherjee, ADG (law and order) Surajit Purakayastha, IGP (western Range) Gangeswar Singh as well as special IG (Burdwan Range) Basab Talukder. It is correct that Trinamul district president Anubrata Mondal had accompanied police to Loba. It seems the villagers have been duped by the Congress, the Left parties and the Trinamul. It will be better if the Trinamul government resolves the Lobs problem peacefully.
pijush kanti sarkar,
12 november, kolkata
It is highly unlikely that farmer-friendly Trinamul government will unleash terror in order to grab land. This is CPI-M canard in collusion with the Congress. The political gameplan of the CPI-M has been exposed by police and fearing the worst they incited villagers to take up arms against the government. But the Trinamul government should treat this as a wake-up call and must devise ways to win back people’s faith.
12 november, kolkata
Loba village in Dubrajpur of Birbhum recently turned into a battlefield. Villagers felt that they had been given a raw deal and cheated outright by a mafia-politicians nexus working for the benefit of a joint venture company that has entered into an agreement to set up an open-cast coal mine spread over 3,350 acres. It appears that trouble started brewing since the joint venture was started in 2009. The residents of Loba have been at the mercy of land sharks since 2001 when the CPI-M was in power and even with regime change, local Trinamul leaders betrayed them after promising justice. They first tried to persuade the villagers to sell their lands. But in view of their initial reluctance because of the multi-crop nature of the holdings, local political leaders began flexing their muscles, threatening the villagers and their families with harm. The villagers were ultimately pressured to sell land at Rs 4 lakh per acre. They were dismayed after finding out that middlemen had sold the holdings to the mining lessee at Rs 12 lakh per acre. Thereafter, a Krishi Joint Raksha Committee was formed to protect farmers’ interests. Even after the Trinamul came to power, the villagers failed to get a better deal. This angered them so much that they seized the earth-moving equipment belonging to the lessee and kept it at Loba village for about a year.
The aggrieved villagers of Loba are not against development. But they wanted righted the wrong done to them by land mafia that bought their lands cheap and sold for staggering profit. Despite villagers insisting that local Trinamul leaders and activists had been by the police’s side when the earth-moving equipment was being “rescued” it is ridiculous of the state industries minister to attribute political motive to the residents of Dubrajpur. It is transparently clear that local land sharks had first enjoyed the patronage of the CPI-M and after May 2011, that of local Trinamul leaders.
arun kumar bhaduri,
13 november, kolkata
Yes, the incident at Lobo in Dubrajpur, Birbhum must come as an eye-opener for the Trinamul government. The chief minister has apologised for the incident, but her apology will not wash in the long run. It is the state’s method of land acquisition that needs a harder look. The UPA II government recently drafted a land acquisition policy that may lead to serious unrest in all parts of the country. In Dubrajpur, 27 policemen and 6 villagers were injured in violence. Bengal’s chief minister has stated that her government will protect the interest of farmers. But the UPA II government’s guidelines make it imperative that industrialisation is encouraged as per the land acquisition Bill. This is paradoxical. Transferring the superintendent of police or appreciating the restraint shown by policemen are no solutions. It is reported that the dispute stemmed from the compensation given to landowners. The Trinamul insists that villagers had been purposely instigated by the Opposition and that an administrative enquiry will be carried out. Why waste time then?
12 november, kolkata
The Trinamul government should realise that the Dubrajpur violence had been triggered by circumstances similar to what had sparked off the Singur and Nandigram crises. Without blaming either Leftist parties or Maoists, the government should settle the matter with villagers who insist that they have been taken for a ride by local land mafia and Trinamul leaders. It has not reacted correctly to the crisis. The district administration had certainly failed to pacify the infuriated villagers. If the Trinamul government too takes recourse to police brutality/coercive methods like the Left Front regime to have its way, has anything really changed? If the Dubrajpur crisis is not handled correctly, Miss Mamata Banerjee may well have another Singur or Nandigram on her hands.
dilip kumar dutta,
12 november, midnapore west