Protest Against Thermal Power Project in Koderma

The village of Koriyaba in the Jaynagar block of Koderma district in Jharkhand has seen a spirited protest since 30 May 2017, against the construction of a flyash pond by the Banjhedih Thermal Power Plant. The villagers in this area have been opposing the proposed flyash pond for a long time now. According to the regulations set by the Pollution Control Board, the flyash pond should be located at least 600 metres away from the village. These regulations are in place to ensure that the air pollution caused by the pond will not affect agricultural production in the village, and also will not cause heath-related problems to the villagers. However, the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) which owns the thermal power plant, has chosen to violate these regulations. With the help of the local police and administration, it is trying to forcibly construct a flyash pond right next to the Koroyaba village.

When DVC tried to commence with the construction work, villagers sat on a dharna to protest and stop the work. The police then brutally lathi charged the protestors, injuring dozens of people. A CPI(ML) fact-finding team reached the village the same evening to understand the situation and to plan for the future course of action. On 1 June, the situation was very tense. Those displaced by the project and the district administration faced off against each other. The JCB machine required for the construction work did not reach the flyash pond site, fearing protests in the village. The construction was work was subsequently stopped. The district administration then stated that if the JCB machine did not reach that day, it would not take the responsibility of ensuring construction of the flyash pond later.

Neither the sitting MLA Janki Yadav nor the sitting MP Ravindra Rai (both from the BJP) bothered to take cognizance of the tense situation and the concerns of the displaced villagers, even after the brutal lathi charge. They did not come to meet the villagers, or to address their questions. Angered by this indifference, villagers burnt effigies of the MLA, the MP and the Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghuvar Das. The BJP government and its leadership was held responsible for the situation.

On 1 June itself, CPI(ML) held a protest march beginning from the CPI(ML) Jhumri Talaiyya office premises, against the construction of the flyash pond and the lathi charge of unarmed villagers by the local police. This march was led by former Bagodar MLA Vinod Singh, and culminated at the Jhanda Chowk after moving through the streets of Jhumri Talaiyya town. Addressing the protest gathering, Comrade Vinod Singh said that the BJP government in Jharkhand led by Raghuvar Das was acting as an agent of corporate forces. The MLAs, MPs protect the concerns of big business, not of the common people of the state. ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ has proved to be a hollow slogan. The Prime Minister speaks of ‘One Country, One Rule, One Law’. However, the rules for compensation are different in different states. The rates and regulations for compensation are different in Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal and Uttar Pradesh for instance.

The protestors demanded that the Jharkhand government do justice to the displaced farmers by initiating peaceful discussions between the villagers and the officials of the DVC’s Thermal Power Plant. In the absence of proper interventions by the government, the villagers would be forced to go into a protracted confrontation with the company, they declared. The protest gathering was also addressed by the CPI(ML) district secretary Manoj Dutta, Birendra Yadav, Ishwari Rana, Bijoy Paswan, Munna Yadav, Rani Devi as well as the CPI(M) leader Ramesh Prajapati.