Jharkhand CM defers foreign tour due to land protests

Ranchi, Oct 20 (IANS) The foreign tour of Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das has been postponed due to the ongoing protests over land acquisition and proposed changes to land acts, officials said on Thursday.

The Chief Minister was scheduled to leave for China and two other countries on Friday.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said that the foreign tour will now take place after November 15.

The Chief Minister returned from a US tour on October 2 and was scheduled to leave China on Friday to lure the investors for the Global Investors Meet, scheduled for February next year.

When Das was in the US, police firing took place at Barkagao of Hazaribagh district, in which four villagers protesting acquisition of their land were killed.

Sources in the government said considering the proposed rally and shutdown, the Chief Minister opted to stay back. Since Diwali is also around the corner, Das did not want to take any chances, and decided against the visit.

On October 22, Jharkhand Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha has called a rally in Ranchi to protest the changes proposed in two land acts — Chotangapur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Act (SPT).

Once the ordinances are cleared by the President of India, agricultural land can be acquired for non-agricultural purposes.

The opposition parties and BJP alliance partner All Jharkhand Students Union are opposing the proposed changes in the acts.

On October 24, the opposition parties have called a shutdown in the state against the police firing at Barkagao and land acquisition for the NTPC coal block mining project.

On October 1, police had opened fire at villagers in which four people, including three minors, were killed at Barkagao. The residents of Barkagao are protesting the land acquisition by the NTPC for coal block mining there. The villagers also allege that proper compensation has not been given to them.

The coal blocks of Pankri Barwadih, Chatti Bariatu and Keredari were identified in 2004 with the coal yield estimated at 13 million tonnes. The foundation stone was laid for the project on November 21, 2005.

Overall, 8,100 acres of land needed to be acquired, of which 4,000 acres was to be acquired from the ‘rayats’ (contract tillers), 2,900 acres forest land and 1,200 acres government land.

The land acquisition was estimated to hit 8,745 families, and the annual coal yield from this mining project was estimated at 13 million tones.