Korba. Private companies are all set to acquire the coal mines located in the Hasdeo forest area in Korba. The land in question is under the fifth schedule; despite that, the government has allotted coal blocks to private companies without gram sabha's permission. The cutting of green trees for the coal block has begun. The villagers are opposing this forceful land grab.
Article 244 (1) of the Constitution gives special rights to the areas falling in the Scheduled Areas. PESA Act has been implemented here by including them in the fifth schedule. The Gram Sabha approves plans, programs and projects for social and economic development in the area under the Fifth Schedule. Acquisition of land requires the approval of the Gram Sabha. Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana are the states in the Fifth Schedule area in the country. The PESA Act provides several special powers to the Gram Sabha. Such as maintaining the traditions, customs and cultural identity of the people.
The villagers struggling for the Hasdeo Aranya area know that the land acquisition for the coal block is against the rules. The Central Government has allotted the coal block of Chhattisgarh to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited under commercial mining. Some of the proposed 20 coal mines in the Hasdeo Aranya area are present in Korba and some in the Surguja district. The Lemru Elephant Reserve project is also supposed to occupy the same stretch of land. If the entire land goes to the coal block, then the area of the elephant reserve will get reduced. Recently, the government fixed the date of a public hearing for two mines of Surguja district, but not for the coal mines of Podi Uporda development block of Korba district.
The Kete Extension Open Cast Coal Mines and Integrated Washery Project located in the Hasdeo Aranya region has a capacity of 11 MTPA. A public hearing is scheduled for July 14 for environmental clearance. This coal block is in Surguja. The total area of this block is 1760 hectares. Most of which is a forested area.
Umeshwar Armo, the convener of Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti and Sarpanch of Paturia Dand, says that the government wants to destroy the densely forested areas. The government acquired the land illegally and violated the PESA law. He says that the state government protested at first, but now it is standing with the central government.