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Rowdyism dominates steel plant public hearing in Jharkhand’s Potka region

Potka (Jharkhand), Sep.25 (ANI): A public hearing over a tribal land that was being acquired by a steel company turned rowdy after security personnel and protestors clashed with each other.

The public hearing at Potka in Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur District witnessed noisy scenes and baton charging by police when protestors tried to break into the function.

The meeting had been arranged by the local authorities between the local tribal populace which consist mostly of the Mundas and Manki tribes, and the representatives of the Bhushan power and Steel company who have acquired land of 450 acres in the area.

The land has been acquired with the intention of setting up a proposed three million tonne steel plant in the area.

Most of the local tribal bodies and activists from the regional Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) party have been alleging that the land acquisition is illegal as a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court has prohibited the selling of land owned by tribals to any private company.

“The people had been opposing against the public hearing from a long time. Officially it has been stated that it is a fifth scheduled area. The village council has complained that their ascent should have been taken. The area where Bhushan Steel has bought land, there are still 100 acres of land lying empty. The Supreme Court has said that the tribals’ lands cannot be sold to any private company. This judgement came recently. This judgement revolved around the surrounding tribal land which is in Potka,” said Ramesh Hamsda, a JMM leader.

Though the protestors tried to break into the venue and disrupt the proceedings of the hearings, police personnel present there baton charged some of the protestors from out of the venue while the rest were tried to control with reasoning.

Most of the authorities and representatives of the company viewed the hearing as a success and termed the protestors as outsiders who had gathered with the sole motive of creating trouble.

“Everybody present there be it you, the media or the officials, could see that the protest was being done by outsiders. The outsiders protest everywhere they go to as they have nothing else to do but protest. So the protest was done by outsiders,” said K. N. Prasad, the managing director of the Bhushan Power and Steel company.

The authorities on their part stated that the minutes of the meeting and its discussions would be sent to the federal government for consideration.

“All the arguments related to the supporters and the protestors were kept forward in the public hearing. All those points have come to us and recorded. Now it shall be sent off to the Indian government,” said Ajit Shankar, the Assistant District Magistrate (ADM) of the Jamshedpur district, who was present at the public hearing.

A day long curfew had also been imposed in the area by the local tribal bodies and the JMM and about 300 protestors had gathered outside the public hearing venue to protest against it.

Most of the activists and tribal bodies allege that the acquisition of land by the company is a gross violation of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act which came into being in 1908 after the historic Birsa Revolt that took place by the Munda tribals.

The main land provision of this act is in the Section 46, which restricts transfer of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes/Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes.

However, a tribal may transfer his land through sale, exchange, gift or will to a fellow Scheduled Tribe member and residents of his own police station area.

Land acquisition by private companies has been a problem in India with several instances of violence taking place between authorities and embittered tribals or farmers.

The land acquisition row has also seen huge sparks in the eastern Odisha state where a row has been going on over acquisition of tribal lands by the Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) company for mining. (ANI)