200 farmers protest against acquisition of farm land by NTPC in Hazaribagh

A farmer was killed and four others, including an 18-year old boy, were injured when the police fired at a group of 200 farmers gathered in Pagar village 125 km from Ranchi to protest against the acquisition of agricultural land by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in Hazaribagh on Tuesday. The farmers had tried to stop the construction of an office for NTPC at Pagar, four km from here, said villagers.

“Sub-contractor Sitaram Khushwaha’s men attacked us when we asked them to stop. They hit Kamalnath Mahto with an axe and his head was bleeding. Soon, six policemen arrived at the site. They fired twice in the air and then they fired at all of us,” said Mahesh Mahto a class X graduate who owns an acre of land here.

On Wednesday afternoon, when Kesar ‘Takeshwar’ Mahto (50) was declared dead from a bullet injury in his waist during the police firing, more than 150 villagers carried his body to the village square.

Of the four injured, Makhan Verma (36), Rahul Kumar (18) and Ramesh Mahto (37) were referred to Hazaribagh government hospital. Nakhan Mahto (38) was referred to Ranchi with a bullet injury to his waist. Till late Wednesday night, Mr. Mahto’s family and the villagers remained around Kesar Mahto’s body and were continuing their protest.

More than 10,000 families in 16 villages organised the Karnpura Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (KBSS) which has opposed the NTPC project to mine coal from this area since it acquired the mining lease in 2005. While some villagers are opposed to selling their land, others have demanded Rs. 25 lakh and a job instead of Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 3000 annuity that has been offered by NTPC for the land for mining coal for its Singrauli plant and North Karnpura thermal power plant (planning stage) in Tandwa, Chatra.

“This is an effort to crush our movement and to demoralise us but our movement will only gain more strength,” said Deepak Das (34) a leader with KBSS. A First Information Report had earlier been registered on May 8 in Badka Gaon police station against Mr. Das and activists Anirudha Kumar and Dileshwar Mahato for leading a protest at the time of the visit of NTPC Managing Director Arup Roy Choudhury on May 7.

“Assitant Sub Inspector M.N. Singh and five constables have been suspended. An enquiry will be done. We will also issue a notice to NTPC for starting work without informing the administration when there has already been protests against this project,” said Hazaribagh’s Superintendent of Police Manoj Kaushik who reached the spot of protest here on Wednesday afternoon.

“This is not the first time that the police have fired at villagers. It happened in Tapkara under Babula Marandhi’s government, at the Electrosteel plant under Madhu Koda, at Kathikund under Shibu Soren,” said CPI (ML) MLA Binod Singh who also reached here from Ranchi.

“The State’s rehabilitation policy is still incomplete and there is no policy at all for land for private purposes,” Mr. Singh added.