Forged Resolutions, Fraudulent Village Assembly Meetings Threaten Mahan Forest, Indigenous Communities

Reported by

Gourav Jaiswal

Legal Data by

Edited by

Updated by

Published on

September 4, 2016

September 4, 2016

Updated on

September 4, 2016

Location of Conflict

Bandhaura

Khairahi, Nagwan and Karsualal villages of Mahan block; Chhatrasal, Amelia and Dongri Tal II forest blocks

Singrauli

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Coal Mining

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

14000

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

1900

ha

Starting Year

2006

State

Madhya Pradesh

Sector

Mining

Mahan Coal Limited is a 50:50 joint venture between Hindalco Industries of the Aditya Birla Group and Essar Power. It plans to extract coal from the Mahan coal block of Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and supply it to the proposed power plants of Essar and Hindalco. Essar Power has invested INR 4,000 crore for a 1,000-megawatt power project, while Hindalco is setting up a 750-megawatt captive power plant and has invested INR 2,400 crore in it.
To mine the coal, Mahan Coal Limited needs access to 1,000 hectares of forestland, which falls under the environment ministry's no-go zone. This forestland is home to Asia's oldest Sal forests, besides being a source of livelihood for the tribal communities living there, who collect and sell forest produce, such as mahua and tendu leaves. These communities do not want the Mahan forests to be dug up for coal and have come together under the banner of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS).
In January 2011, a survey done by the Central Pollution Control Board and IIT Delhi identified the Singrauli coalfield region (of which Mahan is a part) as the seventh most critically polluted area in the country. The region scored 81.73 on the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index that led to a moratorium (moratorium means a legally authorised postponement/delay before some obligations are discharged) on further expansion of mining in the area. But soon after the order, the Madhya Pradesh State Pollution Control Board submitted a remedial plan and lifted the moratorium.
To grant permission to mine coal, the environment ministry required the company to meet 36 conditions, including the holding of free and fair Village Assembly meetings for the people to decide whether they wanted a mine or not. In March 2013, a special Village Assembly convened in Amelia village in Mahan was reportedly fraudulent. Although 184 people attended the meeting, the resolution, which showed approval for Essar's mining project, had 1,125, signatures; most of them were forged--seven of the signatories had been dead for three years. Despite this, in December 2013, the project was granted Stage II forest clearance and Stage I clearance in February 2014.
In 2014, the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti filed a case in the National Green Tribunal challenging the forest clearance accorded to the proposed coal mine. In March 2015, the allocation of coal mine was cancelled.
However, the people are still struggling to get compensation and rehabilitation due to the displacement caused by Essar Mahan power plant. From December 2016 to March 2017, community members held a protest pressurising the local administration to resolved land acquisition issues. But during the protest six persons were arrested and jailed for five days.
Again in 2016, the Ministry of Coal allotted the Amelia coal block to THDC India Limited (earlier called Tehri Hydro Development Corporation) to supply coal to the Khurja Super Thermal Power Project. However, people whose land was acquired were not paid any compensation and were told to not carry out any work in their homes where land was acquired.
By 2019, many people affected by the Essar Mahan power plant were resettled in areas with sub-par living conditions and lack of facilities. A villager told the media that many were compensated with a meagre amount of INR 8,000 as opposed to the promised sum.
In March 2020, THDC India Limited stated in its monthly report that "an initial list of eligible PAFs (project-affected families) for resettlement benefits has been finalised”. However, District Collector K.V.S. Choudary said that the publication of the list has been delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for more compensation than promised

Demand for rehabilitation

Refusal to give up land for the project

Demand for promised compensation

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

6400

Type of investment:

Investment Made

Year of Estimation

2014

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957
Section 4 [Preliminary notification respecting intention to prospect for coal in any area and powers of competent authorities thereupon]; Section 7 [Power to acquire land or rights in or over land notified under Section 4]; Section 8 [Objections to acquisition]; Section 12 [Power to take possession of land acquired]; Section 14 [Method of determining compensation]; Section 17 [Payment of compensation] 
Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015
This Act was in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s order dated September 24, 2014, which cancelled the allocation of coal blocks and issued directions with regard to allocation of these coal blocks. Section 3(1)(p) [This defines “Schedule I coal mines” as all the coal mines and coal blocks the allocation of which was cancelled by the Supreme Court]; Section 8 [A vesting order or allotment order will be issued to transfer upon the new successful bidder any statutory approval or consent already issued to the prior allottee. This implies that the environmental clearance granted to the prior allottee would also be transferred to the successful bidder]; Section 21(2) [Acquisition of land - All such areas of land that are not subject matter of land acquisition proceedings under LARR 2013 may be proceeded with by the Central government in terms of the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957. This implies that the farmers will not be eligible to claim more compensation under LARR 2013 as the land acquisition is not subject to this law]; Schedule I, which lays down the list of Schedule I coal mines, includes Mahan under Point 109
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
Section 3(1)(a) [This section recognises the right of forest dwellers to hold and live on forestland under either individual or common occupation, to either live on or cultivate]; Section 3(1)(f) [This section grants to forest dwellers rights over disputed land regardless of the nature of dispute]; Section 4(1) [This section vests all forest rights in Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers]; Section 4(2) [This section lays down stringent conditions that must be fulfilled before any forest dwellers are resettled or any of their rights are affected]
Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973
Section 3 [Acquisition of rights of owners in respect of coal mines]; Section 3A [Mining operation by company and others] 
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Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Non-implementation/violation of FRA

Non-rehabilitation of displaced people

Incorrect estimation of compensation

Violation of free prior informed consent

Non-payment of compensation/promised compensation

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Disposed

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Supreme Court of India; National Green Tribunal

Case Number

Writ Petition (Criminal) No.120 of 2012; Appeal No. 77/2014

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Supreme Court of India, Writ Petition (Criminal) No.120 of 2012, Order dated September 24, 2014: The Supreme Court noted that the allotment of coal blocks was illegal and arbitrary as government had dealt with the natural resources that belong to the country as if they belong to a few individuals who can fritter them away at their sweet will. The court, therefore, cancelled the allotment of 42 of the 46 coal blocks, clarifying that the cancellation will take effect only after six months, which was with effect from March 31, 2015. This included the Essar Mahan power plant. National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi, Appeal No. 77/2014, Order dated May 20, 2015: Since the allocation of the coal block in question has been withdrawn pursuant to the order of the apex court, the case was also disposed off.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Arrest/detention/imprisonment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

From December 2016 to March 2017, community members held a protest pressurising the local administration to resolve land acquisition issues. But during the protest six persons were arrested and jailed for five days.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Mahan, Singrauli

Nature of Protest

Advocacy (for inclusion in courts)

Protests/marches

Involvement of national and international NGOs

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Ministry of Coal; Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Aditya Birla Group, Essar Power Limited, Hindalco Industries Limited, THDC India Limited

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Gond and other tribal communities

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

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