Abir Dasgupta

  • Chaotic scenes as authorities try to strong-arm village approval for Adani coal-mine expansion

    The villages of the Hasdeo forests have once again been invaded by police, officialdom and Adani employees preparing to clear another area of forest for an Adani-operated coal mine. Chaotic scenes ensued when local authorities attempted to wrangle formal consent for the mining from local people. The plan backfired when officials were repeatedly howled down. Meanwhile, work on a nearby proposed coal mine has been temporarily stopped while a state commission hears a complaint by the area’s tribal inhabitants.

    The coal projects concerned:

    • The Adani-operated Parsa East Kente Basan coal mine - approved for expansion.
    • The Parsa coal block being developed by Adani for mining.

    The Adivasi tribal residents of the Hasdeo Aranya forest in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh are dealing with a mix of good and bad news.

    On the one hand, they have reason to celebrate as an interim order by the Chhattisgarh State Scheduled Tribes (ST) Commission has temporarily put a stop to a coal mine being opened in the Parsa coal block, which is adjacent to the PEKB coal deposit. The ST Commission, which is a constitutionally mandated independent authority meant to safeguard the rights of tribal communities, delivered this order while conducting hearings on a complaint brought before it by a local community organisation.

    A police barricade preventing wider attendance at formal meeting on 19 June.

    The Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (HABSS – the Committee for the Struggle to Save the Hasdeo Forest) has long opposed the Parsa coal project. The rights to mine this block are owned by the Rajasthan government and contracted to the Adani Group for development and operation. The consent of six villages assemblies is a legal requirement before mining can proceed. According to HABSS, village-assembly resolutions claiming to show that the residents of the six villages had consented to allow mining were fabricated. The HABSS complaint to the ST Commission demanded cancellation of the allegedly-fabricated resolutions and an order for the government departments concerned and the police to investigate. On 31 May, the commission temporarily ‘set aside’ the resolutions’ validity until its next hearing.

    The Adani-operated PEKB coal mine - Adani is seeking to cut down more of the Hasdeo forests so the mine can expand. Image Abir Dasgupta

    (‘Gram sabhas’, or village assemblies, are the lowest unit of legislative authority in the Indian Panchayati Raj system, which provides for local self governance in villages.)

    On the other hand, Hasdeo villagers are bracing themselves for destruction of forests to enable the Adani-operated PEKB coal mine to expand. According to local media, the state government has approved this third round of tree felling and the operation had been expected to begin on 7 June. The clearing of the forest did not occur on that date but is imminent. Tribal residents have recently discovered orange markings on trees, earmarking them for cutting.

    To add insult to injury, on 19 June a village council meeting (Gram Sabha) was convened by officials in order to secure agreement from landowners and other village stakeholders for the clearing to proceed. Police barricaded the village in an attempt to stop locals from mobilizing. Nevertheless, the meeting that proceeded frequently dissolved into chaos as villagers bailed up officials to shout their opposition to the mine. The meeting’s failure to achieve the objectives of state officials and the Adani Group did not stop the state’s chief minister, Vishnu Deo Sai, from falsely claiming that consent to the clearing of nearly 200 ha of forest had been obtained.

    Police barricaded the village before the meeting to prevent villagers opposed to the coal mine from mobilising.

    The Parsa East Kente Basen (PEKB) coal mine is owned by the state government of Rajasthan and has been operated by an Adani Group company since 2013.  

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  • ‘They should not believe in the promised land that the Adani company tempts them with.’

    Shiv Prasad Kusro, a village leader who was displaced from his ancestral lands by Adani’s PEKB coal mine, describes the continuing hardships faced by him and his family. He warns villagers facing the same fate from the next Adani coal project not to accept company promises but to keep fighting for their rights.

    Here, he is interviewed by Abir Dasgupta, and tells how Adani's colossal coal agenda fails to benefit local people dispossessed by the mines:

    ‘They should not believe in the promised land that the Adani company tempts them with.’ (youtube.com)

    The Adani coal mines fragment elephant habitat in the Hasdeo forests, posing risks to elephant and human alike.


  • ‘They have burned down our protest site but they have not extinguished our movement.’

    Ramal Kariyam, a village leader, describes the day a battalion of police arrived in the dead of night to detain defenders of India’s Hasdeo forests. While the authorities occupied the area, the Adani company cut down thousands of trees to make way for coal mining. Peaceful resistance continues, despite government backflips and an arson attack on the villagers' protest site.

    In this video interview with Abir Dasgupta, Kariyam describes the challenges faced by his people in defending their ancestral lands from Adani's coal-mining extravaganza.

    ‘They have burned down our protest site but they have not extinguished our movement.’ - YouTube

    A forest setting where an inhabitant cares for her livestock. Image Brian Cassey

     


  • ‘I decided that I would dedicate my life to helping the tribals of Hasdeo fight to protect their land.’: Goldman Prize winner, Alok Shukla

    In May 2024, Indian campaigner Alok Shukla was awarded the prestigious Goldman Prize for his work in helping to protect India's Hasdeo forests and the tribal people who depend on them. The Adani Group operates a coal mine in the forests and is attempting to develop more, despite the opposition of people who depend on the forests for their livelihoods and way of life.

    Abir Dasgupta interviews him for AdaniWatch here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2LI3Zx-e9Y

    The Bob Brown Foundation is particularly pleased to congratulate Alok Shukla for this well-deserved recognition, given that Bob Brown was among the inaugural group of Goldman Prize winners in 1990. The Bob Brown Foundation also congratulates Murrawah Johnson for her 2024 award of a Goldman Prize in standing up to coal projects in Queensland, including Adani's Carmichael mine.

    Alok Shukla receives applause at the presentation of his Goldman Prize in the USA in May 2024.


  • Too clever by half? How Adani’s lobbying may cost Adani Green over US $100 million

    An import-duty on solar equipment that the Indian government imposed following lobbying led by the Adani Group has been a public-policy disaster. The policy was designed to protect India’s domestic manufacturing of solar panels. But it has failed in that objective and slowed down India’s transition to renewable energy. A duty-evasion scheme has allegedly defrauded the government of at least $228 million. The price of solar power in India has increased. More coal is being burned. And associated court rulings may cost Adani Green over US $100 million.

    In recent weeks, the Adani Group’s renewable-energy generation business, Adani Green Energy Limited, has been on a PR blitz.

    Group chairman Gautam Adani was in London on 26 March 2024, launching the ‘Adani Green Energy Gallery’ at the city’s historic Science Museum. On 28 March, Israeli social media personality Nuseir Yassin, who is one of the world’s most recognizable influencers with his ‘Nas Daily’ channel boasting a combined global audience of over 65 million across various social media platforms, published a video collaboration with Adani Green, excitedly extolling the contributions of the Adani Group to India’s ‘Green Energy Revolution’, with footage shot at the Science Museum gallery and at an Adani-run solar-power project in India that Yassin claims can be seen from outer space.

    Protest against Adani's 'green energy gallery' at the London Science Museum.This comes shortly on the heels of a successful bond issue by the company, in which it raised US $409 million to pay off a previous set of bonds. This was the first time the Adani Group had approached the bond market since its value crashed following the January 2023 release of the explosive Hindenburg report, which alleged widespread financial malpractice in the Group.

    Away from the headlines, however, the Adani Group’s renewable energy businesses may be facing a considerable revenue risk arising out of a 2023 verdict by an electricity regulator in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh that denied it a hike in the power tariffs it charges for electricity it generates at one of its solar plants. The Andhra Pradesh verdict constitutes a precedent for a series of similar cases involving several other Adani solar projects demanding higher tariffs that are pending before electricity regulators and India’s Supreme Court. Hearings at the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) of Adani’s appeal of the Andhra Pradesh ruling were concluded on 11 March, the judgment has been “reserved”, and is imminent. The cumulative revenue impact of all the cases together, if they go against Adani Green, could amount to over US $100 million.

    Has the duty on imported solar panels won by Adani Solar cost Adani Green $100 million? Image Wikimedia CommonsIronically, the possible losses are a fallout of a policy change brought about by the Adani Group’s own prior lobbying. An industry body of India’s top solar equipment manufacturers, led by Adani Solar, a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises, lobbied the Indian government in 2017 to protect the domestic industry from lower-priced imports. This led to the government instituting an import duty on solar modules manufactured in China and Malaysia in order to promote manufacturing of the modules in India. The import duties were imposed for two years in 2018, and were renewed, at a reduced level, in 2020 for a further year, and reintroduced under a different name in 2022. These duties increased costs for Indian solar-power generators, including Adani Green, which sought to offset the increased costs by increasing electricity tariffs. The tariff increases have to be approved by electricity regulators, and the Andhra Pradesh regulator’s verdict and reasoning denying such a tariff increase may form the grounds for all such tariff increases to be rejected, including some that have already been approved but are now being reconsidered in appeals.

    Beyond its potential adverse revenue impact on Adani Green’s bottom-line, however, the policy that the Adani Group had lobbied for was a misstep that slowed down India’s energy transition, as experts had warned at the time. This measure has had a series of deleterious consequences.

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  • Are Adani’s listed firms looking down the barrel of a major correction?

    The Adani Group’s listed companies lost over US $15 billion in value during a wider market correction on 13 March 2024 amid warnings from India’s market regulator about ‘froth’ in the stock market. Despite a partial recovery, they once again lost about US $8.5 billion on 18 and 19 March. The Group’s stocks and bonds have all been consistently down over the past month, raising the possibility of a group-wide correction underway. While there have been long-standing concerns regarding the Adani Group’s listed firms being over-valued, in this report AdaniWatch analyses coverage of Adani Group shares by analysts and investment in its shares by mutual funds to quantify how little Indian market professionals trust the Adani group’s listed companies’ valuations. This analysis calculates that Adani stocks are overvalued by at least 32%.

    The explosive report by US-based short-selling firm Hindenburg Research of January 2023 held that the Adani Group’s shares were over-valued on the Indian stock exchanges by 85%. This over-valuation, that report said, was attributable to alleged manipulation of the Group’s share prices. The report alleged that the Adani Group was funnelling money into its own shares through shell companies disguised as independent foreign-portfolio investors and artificially pushing up its share prices to levels far above those justified by the underlying fundamentals of its businesses.

    On 13 March 2024, a downward trend started in Indian stock markets. Since that day the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensitive Index (SENSEX) has fallen to below its 2024 starting level. These losses have come alongside a series of events that depressed the market – including the widespread expectation that the US Federal Reserve would not cut interest rates in its March monetary policy meeting, a warning from the chairperson of India’s securities regulator of ‘froth’ in sectors of the Indian market, and a series of revelations about companies’ donations to political parties.

    Adani shares and bonds are both down in the past month

    This period has been particularly harsh for the Adani Group. On 13 March its cumulative loss in market capitalisation since the start of the year exceeded Rs 1.26 trillion (about US $15.1 billion). Its stocks partially recovered in the following two days, but took another beating after Bloomberg reported that prosecutors in the United States’s Department of Justice are investigating whether an Adani Group company and Group chairman Gautam Adani paid bribes to obtain government contracts. The Bloomberg report was published on the evening of Friday 15 March after Indian stock markets had closed for the week. When the markets re-opened on Monday 17 March, the Adani Group’s stocks lost over Rs 700 billion (about US $8.5 billion) in market capitalisation.

    The Adani Group has denied allegations concerning bribery, terming them false, and has told the Indian stock exchange that it is aware of an investigation into an ‘unrelated third party’.

    However, the wider market trend suggests that the downturn in Adani stocks may not be a simple reaction to news reports but could be part of a wider ‘correction’ that the Indian stock market is undergoing. Unless there is a trend-reversing intervention that causes the share prices to recover, which could take the form of large block purchases of shares by portfolio investors, institutions or other forms of equity infusion by its owners, the Adani Group may face a correction of up to 30%.

    Table showing Adani Group’s stocks’ recent performance as of 19 March (National Stock Exchange data from Economic Times)(Story continues below)

     

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  • Rahul Gandhi’s election pledge to support struggle against Adani’s Hasdeo coal projects

    The campaign to protect India’s Hasdeo forests from coal mining received a boost on 13 February 2024 when prominent Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, met with leaders of the movement and pledged the support of his party. The indigenous tribal people of the biodiverse Hasdeo forests have been struggling gamely to protect their ancestral homeland from a string of coal projects being developed by the Adani Group. A change of state government in December had disastrous consequences, with dozens of campaigners detained by police while a swathe of forest was felled. Gandhi’s pledge to tackle Adani and stop the mines promises to become a major issue in the area during the forthcoming national elections.

    On Tuesday, 13 February 2024, prominent Indian Opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, met with campaigners battling to save India’s Hasdeo forests from a slew of coal mines being developed by the Adani Group.

    Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, meets campaigners trying to save India's Hasdeo forests from the Adani Group's coal projects.

    More specifically, he met with representatives of Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (HABSS) or the Committee for the Struggle to Save Hasdeo Aranya. After a detailed discussion with HABSS’s co-convenor Umeshwar Singh Armo, Gandhi assured the delegation that the Congress stands with the Adivasis (tribals) of the Hasdeo forest and will include a commitment to declare the entire forest region a ‘no-go’ area for coal mining in its election manifesto for the upcoming general election.

    Gandhi, who is currently on a march from east to west across the Indian sub-continent, met the delegation at Jajga village in the Sarguja district of northern Chhattisgarh, a 90-minute drive from the Adani-operated Parsa East Kente Basen (PEKB) coal mine in the Hasdeo forests, which supplies coal to power stations in the state of Rajasthan.

    Part of India's Hasdeo forests, threatened by Adani's huge agenda for new coal mines. Image by Vijay Ramamurthy

    In a public address shortly after the meeting, Gandhi called out Adani saying, ‘I saw a huge Adani office nearby here today. Even the road signs have Adani’s logo on them. Wherever you turn in the country – be it ports, airports, infrastructure, forests, seas, rivers – wherever there is wealth in the country, the government is handing it over to Adani’.

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