Residents of over 40 gram panchayat sabhas in Khunti today submitted a memorandum to the industry director, Aradhana Patnaik, protesting against the ArcelorMittal land acquisition bid to set up the Torpa steel plant.
In the memorandum of demands, the villagers vowed to fight "till the end" to safeguard their right over water, forest and land (jal, jungle aur zameen).
The letter was forwarded by the co-ordinator of the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, Dayamani Barla.
The demands included that the state government halt land transfer in Torpa block immediately and that the ryot rights over villages that has been granted to ArcelorMittal is declared null and void.
Citing provisions under the Chhotanagpur Tenanacy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, the residents argued that the villages' tribal communities were the "real owners" of the water, forest and land in the area. Thus, the government had no right to transfer these.
The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, too, upholding the "traditional rights of the tribals" was quoted in the letter.
Instead of setting up new industries in the area, the residents have demanded that waters from Koel, Karo and Chhata be made available to farmers for agriculture.
Copies of the memorandum were also sent to the governor and industry secretary.
On September 14, members of 32 gram sabha had submitted a similar memorandum to Khunti deputy commissioner, while on September 22, yet another was shot off to the Gumla deputy commissioner.
Talking to The Telegraph Barla warned that the seething villagers were getting more and more impatient with the state as they felt that industrialisation was a threat to indigenous culture and values. "We are not going to sit idle," she added.
ArcelorMittal plans to start a 12MT greenfield steel plant in Torpa and Kamdara blocks and needs 8,000 acres for the projects. According to members of Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, several farmers from the 32 villages of Khunti and Gumla would be displaced if the firm goes ahead with its plan.
October 1, 2009 / Telegraph