The coal block in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, is meant to supply coal to power plants of Essar and Hindalco.
SINGRAULI, Madhya Pradesh: It has reported that the road to the contentious Mahan coal block, deep in the forested heart of Central India, meant to supply coal to the power plants of Essar and Hindalco, passes through Amelia village, in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh.
In its controversial report targeting foreign-funded NGOs for acting against India’s economic interests, the Intelligence Bureau had singled out Greenpeace, saying the organisation’s campaign is funded from abroad, proving its anti-India agenda.
Greenpeace doesn’t deny that they used funds from foreign donors, or that they helped organise protests, but deny their motivation is anti-national.
Greenpeace Mahan campaigner Akshay Gupta says, “Before 2012, no one knew about Mahan. Today everyone knows about Mahan, because we brought it to the forefront”
They say they were alerted about Mahan after alarm bells raised by the government’s own environment ministers, particularly Jairam Ramesh, who in a letter in May 2010 to the Prime Minister wrote, “Clearance of the Mahan coal-block will open up a Pandora’s Box which we should avoid at all costs”
The government cleared the project – overruling these objections – but Greenpeace has kept protests alive.
Anti-mining villagers, brought together by Greenpeace as the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, allege that a Gram Sabha, which greenlighted the project in 2013, was rigged, pointing to the signatures of those who are dead.
The allegations have forced the local administration to order a fresh Gram Sabha.
Singrauli District Collector M Selvendran says he has ordered an enquiry into the incident and will soon be taking action on it.
But pro-mining voices, especially those who own land, have formed a rival front, claiming Greenpeace has exaggerated fears.
Raj Narayan, spokesperson for the Mahan Vikas Manch, says, “We want development for the village. We want the mine to open soon so we can get jobs”.
A claim reaffirmed by officials of Mahan Coal, the joint venture of Essar and Hindalco.
Ramakant Tiwari, CEO of Mahan Coal, told us they are committed to paying the villagers for the forest produce and are confident of getting the approval of the new Gram Sabha.
Greenpeace’ aggressive campaign has at best served to bring the Mahan debate to the national and international arena. At worst, it has deepened polarisations in the village, dividing them into two groups which now fail to see eye to eye. However, it is still a far cry from the IB assertion of hidden agendas behind Greenpeace intervention.