C'garh CM asks to return tribal land acquired for TATA

C'garh CM asks to return tribal land acquired for TATA

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. (PTI File Photo)

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has given direction to officials to prepare a detailed proposal to be placed before the cabinet to restore the agricultural lands acquired from tribal farmers for TATA Steel plant project in Lohandiguda of Bastar district.

The decision would benefit villagers of around 10 villages.

Citing the promise made to the tribal farmers, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has given the order to officials to complete the whole process at the earliest.

It has to be mentioned that All India Congress Committee president Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Bastar during an election campaign, had made the promise to the farmers of Lohandiguda that their lands would be restored. Later, it was included in ‘Jan Goshna Patra’ (Election Manifesto) of the Congress party.

The manifesto states that agricultural land acquired for industrial use, in case, if no project comes up within five years, all the acquired agricultural land would be restored to the landowners, mainly farmers.

As per available details, around 2000 hectares of land was acquired for TATA project in February 2008 and December 2008. As land being in Scheduled Tribe area, the company could not purchase it directly from tribal farmers. The state government had acquired it for the company by receiving compensation.

The affected villages were Chindgaon, Kumhali, Beliyapal, Bandaji, Daabpal, Badeparoda, Belar and Sirisguda of Lohandiguda teshil, villages of Takraguda under Tokapal Tehsil.

As per details, TATA was to establish 5.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) greenfield integrated steel plant and had signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government in June 2005 with an investment of about Rs 19500 crore.

The MoU was extended but finally ended in June 2016, when the company did not seek a further extension. The company was allotted 2,500 hectares of an iron ore mine in Bailadila Deposit 4 in 2008 for the supply of raw material to the proposed steel plant. It is said that due to multiple factors in land acquisition and protest from local people, the project could not be taken off.

Meanwhile, the company also lost the mine of estimated reserve of 108 million tonnes of high-grade iron ore as it could not commence mining in the stipulated time frame. The government then could not allocate the mine due to the amended Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act 2015, which stipulates auction as the only mode for mine allocation.