The latest public hearing for environmental clearance to Jindal’s proposed coal mining in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh was marked by allegations of illegality and manipulation.
Jindal Steel and Power Ltd admitted to aspects of illegality but, nevertheless, claimed the hearing, held Wednesday, was successful and people favoured its projects. The hearing was necessitated after the National Green Tribunal, in July 2012, struck down the previous public hearing held in January 2008 as illegal.
Activists pointed out that though rules require public hearing on a project be held within 45 days of the filing of application, this one was held after nearly six months. Local activist Rajesh Tripathi, rendered the hearing “illegal”. Also, since this area is governed under Schedule V of the Constitution, no industrial activity can be undertaken without the permission of the gram sabha and no tribal land can be purchased by non-tribals. JSPL executive vice president, Pradeep Tandon, blamed the government: “We also want the hearing to be held within 45 days. But it’s for the government to organise it. Nowhere in the country are public hearings for such projects held in time. We will ensure full compliance with Schedule V provisions.”
And after the hearing, many trashed the firm’s claim that people had favoured its projects. The Hindu reported that JSPL brought hundreds of people from outside who “came in SUVs and demanded setting up of Jindal’s coal mines”. Savitha Rath, an activist, added, “They manipulated the crowd and the hearing process.” However, Tandon said he had no knowledge of it.
“Several coal blocks have been allotted in Raigarh without considering their impact on locals,” said Sudeip Srivastava, a High Court lawyer .