Chhattisgarh CM Sai, Singh Deo join the debate over deforestation in Hasdeo

The two leaders blamed each other’s party for the deforestation and mining activities that have invited opposition from local residents

Published - December 26, 2023 12:17 am IST - RAIPUR

Chhattisgarh CM Vishnu Deo Sai blamed the Congress for the exercise. File

Chhattisgarh CM Vishnu Deo Sai blamed the Congress for the exercise. File | Photo Credit: PTI

As protests against the ongoing deforestation in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo region continued on Monday, Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai blamed the Congress for the exercise, while former Deputy CM T.S. Singh Deo insisted that public opinion should be sought for any mining-related activity.

“They should see that the permission for deforestation is from a time when it was their [Congress] government in power…. Whatever has happened, even if it is deforestation, is happening with their permission,” Mr. Sai said, responding to a query from the media on the issue.

Taking exception to the CM’s statement, Alok Shukla from Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan said that while the permission for deforestation in the ecologically sensitive forests was issued during the previous Bhupesh Baghel-led Congress government [of which Mr. Singh Deo was a part], the clearance came from the Centre as well. “Also, the Chhattisgarh Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution against mining in Hasdeo forests which means the BJP, then in the Opposition, supported the stance,” he added.

Also Read: Explained | The coal mining protests in the Hasdeo Aranya region 

After meeting the protesters, Mr. Singh Deo said that while the deforestation that is taking place now is linked to the PEKB Phase II project for which permission was granted earlier, there is local opposition to two other mining projects as well. He acknowledged that the permission for PEKB Phase II was issued when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was ruling at the Centre, adding that the proposal was sent by the then Bharatiya Janata Party government led by Raman Singh.

He said that the new mining projects were facing resistance and that he would take up the issue of new mines with Chief Minister Sai as the Assembly had passed a resolution against any new mining activities.

Mr. Singh Deo, who recently lost the elections, met with the protesters. Speaking after the interaction, he said that it did not matter to the people if he were an MLA or not, they called on him whenever they needed him. Last year, too, he had visited the protesters when there was opposition to mining in the forests despite being a part of the government that issued the deforestation order.

Meanwhile, Congress workers formed a human chain in the capital Raipur. The administration has maintained that it had all the permissions for the deforestation.

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