Nearly twodecade old agitation over proposed Netarhat Firing Range has erupted again in Jharkhand. This time tribals are incensed over the government move to create a land bank of nearly 80 acres in the range to attract investors in the state. Irate tribals called for a bandh on March 29, 2017, to boycott chief minister, Raghubar Das public event at Mahautar in Latehar district to highlight the issue of the land bank.
Dayamani Barla a frontal tribal leader told Land Conflict Watch that land bank of nearly 80 to 90 acres of once proposed Netarhat Field Firing Range has been created to invite investors and to displace the tribals. She said that government could not muster the courage to displace tribals in the year 2000 when land acquisition began for the firing range. The tribal protest forced the government to take a backstep. Now the government is trying to enter Netarhat firing range by giving land to the industrialists, Barla says.
The proposed firing range spread over 245 villages was threatening to displace 2.75 lakh tribes including Asur, Birjia, Birhor and Korwa tribes. The issue was also debated in the Rajya Sabha in 2007 when Mabel Rebello raised the issue seeking government stand on how displaced tribal families would be rehabilitated.
Gladson Dung Dung another tribal activist of Pilot Project Netarhat Field Firing Range Virodhi Jansangharsh Samiti said that nearly 90 percent of the land under the land bank belong to the fifth schedule. The tribal land under the fifth schedule cannot be purchased or transferred. Moreover, these land are also the property of gram sabha. The government has no right to put this land under the land bank, Dung Dung adds.
Huge support for Mahautar bandh led to the cancellation of chief minister visit. Subdivisional officer of Mahautar, Om Prakash said that tribal demands have been forwarded to chief minister office and also to the chief secretary.