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Farmers & MCL face burnt of ‘non-cooperative actions’ of Odisha Govt

Union Coal Minister Piyush Goyal warns Odisha Government that due to non-cooperative actions, the state would loose investments in the state by PSUs & other investors and that would result in loss of revenue, jobs & farmers’ distress 

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As the nation marches towards achieving the plan of producing one billion tonnes of coal by 2020 to meet the ever increasing energy needs of the country, significant opportunities open up for Odisha to support this endeavour by escalating coal production, increasing the revenue for development of both the State and the local area and ensuring jobs for the people. Mahanadi Coalfielcs Limited (MCL), which is a subsidiary public sector Coal India Limited (CIL) and located fully within Odisha, has the potential to contribute 25 percent of this production plan.

However, political rivalry between Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started taking its toll. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik would struggle hard to bring in BJD government once again in power in early 2019 and the BJP is also keeping no stone unturned to form a government in Odisha. Several Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs) such as IndianOil (Paradeep Refinery Project) were facing several hurdles created by the State government. Sources in CPSUs said that overall promises made earlier with regard to incentives or approvals were either not met or delayed.  

Here case in point is MCL which aims to produce 250 million tonnes by 2020. Land acquisition, resettlement, rehabilitation of farmers-villagers under reserved areas and now ‘non-cooperative action’ by the Naveen Patnaik government have emerged as major challenges to meet the set targets. 

In a letter to the Chief Minister, Union Coal Minister Piyush Goyal has warned the  Odisha Government that due to non-cooperative actions, the state government would loose investments in the State by CPSUs & other investors and that would result in loss of revenue, jobs & farmers’ distress.

“While the efforts on the ground have been undertaken, the MCL has been encountering frequent disruptions and stoppages of mining operations in its Talcher Coalfields largely due to obstructionist approach of few local people who are not the employees of MCL. Unfortunately, handing over of even government land gets delayed on account of local disruptions. Neither the Civil administration nor the police are providing any support to control the local elements,” Goyal said in his letter.

“ During the last two and half years (till 22.08.2017), there have been 418 incidents of stoppage of mining works or disruption resulting in loss of approximately 7,088 man-hours, 329 letters have been sent to the police for registering FIRs. In addition, 89 letters have been written to the district administration for providing assistance in resumption of production and dispatch,” he said.

According to him, all these disruptions/stoppage of work has resulted in the loss of coal production amounting to 44.22 Million Tonnes (sale value of approximately Rs, 4,400 crore). This has also been detrimental to the revenue earnings of the State and Odisha has directly lost approximately Rs. 892 crore that it could have earned through Royalty, DMF, VAT and Entry tax (now GST).

“Needless to say, this amount could have been used to build roads, schools and hospitals for welfare of the people of Odisha. The production loss, failure to acquire and take possession of land for mining have also resulted in loss of immense employment opportunities, which the people in your State could have received. These disruptions are happening despite the fact that MCL is offering one of the best resettlement & rehabilitation packages,” Goyal explained.  

The Coal Minister warned, “This is also likely to vitiate the investment climate and may ultimately result in investment being driven away from the State for both Public and Private sectors. ... even investment opportunities by the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in the State may fall due to these non-cooperative actions.”

Rural & Marketing tried to contact Odisha Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and the state government’s spokesperson, however, there was no response from the state government to clarify their stand. 

A senior official of MCL said that land is associated with resettlement and rehabilitation issues which are very sensitive in nature. MCL deals with resettlement issue with sensitivity, care and with human emotion. Farmer’s attachment for land is quite normal and displacement becomes an emotional issue. “ We provide adequate compensation, jobs and resettlement site or cost to the farmers , villagers and land oustees . We ensure least pain is felt by them,” he said.

Apart from compensation and resettlement, farmers’ family member were given jobs. The company has provided jobs to over 12,000 land oustees. They constitute more than the half of MCL’s total manpower. Over 100 villages have been notified for new projects. The process of land acquisition is on amid disruptions and non-cooperation by the local administratio. When the company acquires land, the family is considered a single unit, however, when it gives them jobs, MCL takes into consideration every family member above the age of 18, notwithstanding the number whether it is 1,2 or 20. The coal producing company also provides skill training to them under its  Corporate social responsibility (CSR). Moreover, the company has sponsored Rs 25,00,000 for 250 irrigation facilities to poverty-stricken development oriented measures whenever required. Overall, MCL spends over Rs 100 crore for CSR activities annually and that is more than legal requirement. For CSR, MCL works in close cooperation with district administration which has turned hostile now. And reasons are not unknown. 

For a layman, it would not be easy to understand- why is the state government undermining the contribution of MCL to overall development of the state? When politics takes centre stage, such things happen. Otherwise, it is on paper that MCL is the top contributor to the state exchequer. Its contribution, in the form of tax/royalties, is going up every year by nearly 6 percent. MCL profits in the last fiscal was over Rs 6,000 crore. As profit goes up, MCL’s contribution to Odisha exchequer also goes up accordingly.  

Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) is a major challenge for the company. While rehabilitation process is on, resettlement has got stuck as MCL requires land from the state government to settle the land oustees. The resettlement issue has adversely impacted the expansion plans of the company thereby hitting the overall growth of coal production.  

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