AdaniWatch reveals chilling details of coercion and power used to threaten an Adivasi community
As dams and mines expand across the Adivasi (a blanket term used to describe India’s indigenous tribes) inhabited regions, more specifically in the central-eastern parts of the country, the community often finds itself on the losing side of the law. Aside from the devasting environmental damage that these projects impose, there are the often-forgotten social implications that bear threat to the Adivasi community – livelihood and the heritage ties to the land that binds the community – spiritually, emotionally, and economically. It is the opportunity cost that is outweighed in the streamlined process of globilisation, a process that endeavours to advance the country’s economic and developmental goals at the cost of sometimes its own people.
In July 2020, AdaniWatch – a not-for-profit- established by the Bob Brown Foundation, laid bare the Adani Group and its duplicitous means to acquire land that has been farmed by indigenous people for the construction of the Godda power station. Located about 400 km north of Kolkata, this power station tells the grim story of power, control, coercion, and fraud used to silence anyone in its way.
The Adani slogan ‘growth with goodness’ appears to be nothing but a hoary epigram used to mask the company’s real intentions as its ‘goodness’ seems at odds with the treatment meted out to the Adivasi community.
According to the report published by the foundation ‘Dirty Tricks and Coercion Used to Acquire Land for Adani’s Godda Power Plant’, between 2016-2018, public officials forcibly seized land from its traditional owners on behalf of Adani. At a public hearing meant to test whether the community would acquiesce to the acquisition of their land, opponents of the project were prevented from entering and protesters were assaulted by the police for expressing their concerns.
In India, the significance of a public hearing is an obligatory feature of an environmental impact assessment. It endeavours to encourage a dialogue with the affected people, allowing them to share their concerns and views regarding the industrial site and its operations. But in the case of Adani, the public hearings were nothing but a histrionic, staged performance.
According to AdaniWatch, locals were given red cards, while outsiders – people brought from outside the state were paid and given green cards. The cards lacked official stamps or signatures and only those with green cards were said to be allowed in, exempting the actual landowners.
In 2017, the company gained its environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It was the ‘green’ signal, for the blatant pillage that would then follow. The environmental clearance, according to the AdaniWatch report, makes mention of a public hearing alongside a fabricated list fallacious issues that were supposedly aired by the community. The spurious issues related to employment, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, environmental and compliance standards. The environmental clearance report however conveniently fails to reference how indigenous landowners were barred from attending the hearing, it excludes the local opposition to the project and the blatant bullying that ensued during the hearing.
In August 2018, the company along with the police bulldozed their way into the village, forcibly occupying the land. Despite the protests and the hunger strikes, the cries of the community remain ignored, amidst the clamour of the tractors and constant drilling which has now become a permanent fixture in the once serene, bucolic village.
The community however continues to remain stoic and tenacious in the fight, filing a case in the High Court and urging that the state’s confiscation of the land be revoked. While construction of the power station has stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the efforts of the Adivasi community remain relentless, unanimously echoing “We will keep fighting”.