Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo said on Friday that Parsa and Kete Extension – two new coal blocks in Hasdeo Aranya area – will not be opened for mining and Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had given his consent for it.
This is the first time that the Chhattisgarh government has said that mining activities will no longer take place in these two blocks, where there has been a strong protest against mining and deforestation for the past one year. Earlier this year, the state government issued the final nod, sparking protests.
Mr Singh Deo said, “I spoke to the Chief Minister and he was in agreement that no new mines should be opened and I can go ahead and give a statement on his behalf.” Hindu,
So far, Mr. Baghel has said that the state government had no role in the matter and it was for the Center to decide whether to cancel the blocks. In July this year, the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a private member resolution urging the Center to scrap the allocation of all coal mining blocks in the ecologically sensitive area.
written order sought
Villagers and activists, who have been demanding withdrawal of all local clearances from the state government, said the minister’s announcement was encouraging but should have been a written order.
“The way we interpret it is that mining will not happen whether the allotment is canceled or not, which is a relief. But it’s also difficult to take a verbal commitment at face value. The government should give us in writing that it will withdraw all the approvals,” said Ramlal Kariyam, a resident of Salhi village under Mr Singh Deo’s constituency Surguja.
In April this year, the forest department cut 300 trees to clear land for mining in Parsa East Kete Basan (PEKB) Phase II and Parsa block and Salhi village adjoining these blocks. The tree-cutting exercise sparked massive protests and despite the mining activities being halted in these blocks, the villagers continued to stage dharnas against mining, demanding a permanent withdrawal rather than a temporary moratorium.
To a question on whether to document the latest announcement through a written order, the minister said the government would decide on it but if the chief minister had said something, it gave an understanding of what the government was thinking.
On mining in already operational coal blocks like PEKB – in which mining for Phase I has been completed and Phase II of which is facing resistance like Parsa and Kete Extension, Mr Singh Deo clarified that the district administration can go ahead But the villagers have to take it together. Parsa, PEKB Phase II and Kete Extension, all three have been allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RRVUNL).