Coal India Indigenous People
‘Adani Go Back!’ Fact-finding report on resistance to Adani’s ‘Gondulpara’ coal project
May 22, 2023
Despite the frequent presence of armed security forces, villagers' protests against Adani's proposed 'Gondulpara' coal project have been vigorous and colourful.

A fact-finding mission has found that Adani’s proposed ‘Gondulpara’ coal mine will destroy over 500 ha of fertile farmland and forests in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Five villages will be severely impacted. Over 780 families will be displaced. Villagers told the authors of the report that they have been persecuted by government authorities for having taken such a strong stance against Adani’s coal project. Police have charged protesters with various offences. Government assistance for the area’s livelihoods has been terminated. The local cooperative has been instructed not to buy rice from farmers opposed to Adani’s project. Still, the protests continue.

Report authors, Akash Ranjan and Dhiraj Kumar, are social activists based in Jharkhand who are working to enhance rights to food security.  In April 2023, they visited villages threatened by the Adani Group’s proposed ‘Gondulpara’ coal mine. (Note that Adani continues to misspell the name of the area’s main village – Gondalpura.)

Local people whose villages, homes and way of life are threatened by Adani's 'Gondulpara' (sic) coal project.

They undertook this mission to explore the reasons behind the steadfast opposition of local people to the project, which was allotted to Adani Enterprises in November 2020. This is a summary of their fact-finding report.

Five villages will be severely impacted by the mining project with 781 families displaced

A total of 513 ha of land will be acquired for the project in and around the villages of Gondalpura, Gali, Balodar, Hahe and Phoolang. Of this, 43.5% is raiyyati land (land owned by the people for which legal rights to cultivate it are held); 42.8% is forest land; and 13.7% is Gair Majarua land – that is, land publicly owned for public purposes such as water supplies, crematoria, temples and so on.

A scene at Balodar, one of the five villages to be severely impacted by Adani's proposed Gondalpura coal mine.

Out of the five villages, 115 ha of raiyyati land will be acquired in Gondalpura, 71 ha in Gali, and 37 ha in Balodar. Rayyati land will not be acquired in the villages of Hahe and Phoolang.

A total of 781 families will be displaced due to mining.

Multi-crop land is being acquired for coal mining

Rice and sugarcane on fertile land earmarked for destruction by Adani's 'Gondulpara' coal project.

About 223 ha of farmland of three of the above villages is to be taken over for mining. This land is highly fertile, supporting more than one crop each year. Rice, wheat, sugarcane, vegetables and pulses are cultivated. There is abundant ground water. According to the villagers, water is available here at a depth of about six metres. Rice yield is approximately 5-6 tonnes per ha per year.

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Forests will be destroyed and streams will dry up

The proposed coal mine is surrounded by hills, forests and rivers. About 220 ha of forest land will be obliterated by the mine. Mahua, kend, piyar, mango, jamun jackfruit trees and many types of herbs and tubers are found in these forests.

The area proposed for Adani's 'Gondulpara' (sic) coal mine consists of fertile fields, villages, hills, forests and rivers.

Many streams have their headwaters in these forests. The Gobardaha and Gudlagawa rivers originate near Balodar village, the Karirekha river from Gali village, and the Gatikocha river from Hahe village. All four rivers join to form the Dholkatwa River, which is known downstream as the Badmahi River, which joins the Damodar River at Vishrampur. Coal mining will destroy the headwaters of these rivers, significantly reducing flow downstream. In the proposed lease area, mining is proposed to be carried out in the river catchments as well as in the riverbed itself.

Animals such as elephants, wild boars, bears, peacocks and rabbits inhabit the forest, which is also part of an elephant corridor. Currently, there is no significant conflict between the villagers and the animals. Destruction of the forest by the proposed coal mine will generate dangerous conflict between large animals and the local human inhabitants.

Livelihoods and employment will be severely impacted by mining

Almost all the families displaced by the mining project depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Most of the families are able to sell rice because of the high yield. Sugarcane is the main crop of this region after rice. Jaggery made from sugarcane is a major source of income.

Local livelihoods will be seriously affected if this fertile area is obliterated for Adani's 'Gondulpara' (sic) coal mine.

Sumitra Devi of village Balodar told the fact-finding mission that by making jaggery from sugarcane her family earns up to 2 lakhs (US $2500) a year. Farmer Vinay Kumar said that most of the villagers earn 2 to 2.5 lakh from agriculture. Sunita Devi, a single woman of Balodar, said that she sold jaggery worth 20 thousand (US $243), paddy worth 30 thousand (US $365), mahuva worth 10 thousand (US $121) and onion worth 10 thousand (us $121) last year.

The forest is the other major source of livelihoods. Villagers sell mahua, kendu leaves, teak and mohallam leaves from the forest. Almost all the families sell 1 – 1.5 tonnes of mahua (fleshy edible flowers used for brewing an alcoholic drink) each year.

There is no dearth of employment in the area. Migration is negligible. There are seven brick kilns in the area which employ local people as well as outsiders.

There are several brick kilns in the area which augment employment from agriculture.

Villagers oppose mining project

Adani and the district administration have frequently sought formal village meetings (gram sabha) in order to tick the boxes required for community consultation over the coal project. Villagers have succeeded in having such meetings cancelled.

One of several village meetings about Adani's 'Gondulpara' (sic) coal project, all of which have opposed the development.

A Social Impact Assessment (SIA) of mining (see below) was carried out by the private consultancy firm NABRD from September 2021 to January 2022.

A gram sabha public hearing was scheduled for 15 July 2022 in mining-affected village Balodar to explain the findings of SIA. The meeting had to be cancelled after massive protests by the villagers. This led the Deputy Commissioner to cancel proposed gram sabhas in other affected villages.

On 1 October 2022, a notification was again issued by the administration to place the SIA report on the table of the gram sabha. On 2 October 2022, under the chairmanship of the head of Gondalpura Panchayat, the villagers of five affected villages held a gram sabha, in which all the raiyats decided not to give land to Adani Enterprises under any condition and handed over the written decision to the deputy commissioner.

The Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report contains factual errors

From September 2021 to January 2022, a survey was conducted for the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) of mining by the NABRD consultancy, engaged by the government. (NABRD is the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development – the SIA was carried out by its consultancy arm.) The villagers opposed the survey. They say that many ‘facts’ appearing in the subsequent report are false, including:

  1. According to the SIA report, no multi-cropped agricultural land is being acquired for the project, for which a certificate has been given by the Agriculture Department. This is an outright lie; the land to be acquired is multi-cropped. Farming is done here throughout the year.
  2. The report claims that affected families are not satisfied with the amount of compensation given in lieu of the land, whereas the truth is that most of the tenant farmers do not want to give up their land at any cost.
  3. According to the SIA report, it is difficult for people to make a living from agriculture due to low agricultural productivity. But the truth is that most farming families make a very good living from agriculture; productivity is good. Over five tonnes of rice per hectare are produced each year. People’s incomes are supplemented by the sale of additional goods such as jaggery and vegetables.
  4. In the SIA report, a misleading and false attempt has been made to portray the health condition of villagers as poor. According to the report, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery and skin diseases are common problems in the area. However, health conditions in the village are good. According to rural doctor Deepak Kumar, the clean environment of the village means that people in the village do not suffer serious diseases other than seasonal ailments.

Accompanied by armed men, officials arrive at Gondalpura to spruik Adani's 'Gondulpara' (sic) coal project.

Deputy Commissioner and a government community-assistance agency are working at the behest of the Adani company

Villagers say that government agencies such as the administration and an important community-assistance agency are working at the behest of the Adani company. Ward member of Gondalpura Panchayat Yashoda Devi said that there is pressure from the district commissioner and other officials to speak in favor of Adani.

According to villagers, the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS), a government-owned agency that provides assistance to the community (such as low-interest loans and facilitation of self-help groups) supports the Adani coal project. This has had ramifications. A local person, Yashoda Devi, said that she had been employed by the JSLPS but was fired for not supporting the Adani company. Villagers allege that they are being offered enticements to support the coal project and threatened if they do not. Villagers say that because of the JSLPS’s support for Adani, the work of the organisation has been suspended in the entire village of Gondalpura.

An important agricultural cooperative has been directed not to buy rice from Gondalpura farmers

The Primary Agriculture Cooperative Society (PACS) procures rice from farmers, providing economic stability to the sector. Samiti member of Gondalpura, Devnath Mahato, told the fact-finding mission that this year’s rice crop was good despite a scarcity of water. However, produce was not bought by the Gondalpura PACS centre, allegedly on the orders of district commissioner, because the villagers are opposing Adani’s coal project. Farmers were therefore forced to sell rice to middlemen at a much-reduced price.

Prohibitions on the entry of Adani company employees in villages

The villagers say that, in spite of continuous protests, company officials are trying to enter villages on various pretexts, a provocative move on the part of the Adani company. Boards prohibiting entry by company officials have been erected outside all of the affected villages. Along with this, the villagers have written letters to the Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police, DIG, urging that they also prohibit entry to Adani employees.

Protests by the villagers and reactions by local authorities

About 120 men and women have been booked under section 107 of the Indian Penal Code for opposing the mining project. A ‘Zila Badar notice’ (a restraining order preventing people from entering defined places that can even include their normal area of work and/or habitation) has been issued to several people.

Police have charged protesting villagers with offences and applied restriction orders.

To demonstrate their opposition to the proposed coal mine, many villagers have been sitting on an indefinite dharna (a sit-in to protest) outside the village since 13 April 2023. The villagers say that the strike will continue until Adani is driven away. They do not want compensation or promises of employment in exchange for their lands. Many say they will sacrifice their lives before yielding their land. The villagers say that they are staging the dharna outside the village in order to safeguard children in the event that the authorities begin shooting, as occurred at the Chiru-Barwadih protest (in which villagers protesting against a proposed NTPC coal mine were fatally shot by police).

Villagers have located their permanent protest against Adani's coal project outside the village to protect children in the event that security forces start shooting.

Villagers oppose use of forests and public land for the proposed coal mine

The villagers are not only opposing the surrender of their tenanted land but have also opposed the use of forest land for non-forestry purposes. In this regard, the villagers have written a letter to the Divisional Forest Officer of Hazaribagh.

They have also protested against the takeover of public lands, or commons, including the river, roads, reservoirs, ponds, schools, temples and other places of worship by the Adani company.

Villagers have strongly protested against the takeover of their farms, forests and villages for Adani's proposed 'Gondulpara' (sic) coal mine.

Conclusion

The people, water, forest, land and animals of five villages will be destroyed by the Adani Group’s Gondalpura (sic) mining project. The environment of the area will be seriously affected. Not only will five villages be destroyed, but due to drying in the headwaters of the tributaries of Damodar River, the lands of many surrounding areas will also be degraded. The villagers refuse to surrender the land at any cost. Authorities are urged to act with restraint, rather than resorting to force that could result in the sort of tragedy that occurred at Chirudih in 2016, where police fired upon villagers defending their lands from coal mining proposed by a different company.

Authorities have been urged to act with restraint, rather than opening fire as they did at Chirudih in 2016.