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India's largest coal block in Bengal will displace nearly 21,000, 43% of them from ST

India's largest coal block in Bengal will displace nearly 21,000, 43% of them from ST

India's largest coal block in Bengal will displace nearly 21,000, 43% of them from ST
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By CNBCTV18.com Dec 30, 2021 11:31:53 PM IST (Updated)

The coal block, located in West Bengal's Birbhoom district, is spread over 13.7 square km. The seams of coal are trapped between thick layers of basalt. The government estimates peg reserves of coal and basalt in the area to the tune of 1,198 million tonne of coal and 1,400 million cubic metre of basalt.

The Deucha-Pachami-Dewanganj-Harinsinga (DPDH) coal block is Asia’s largest coal reserve and will soon be the location of the world’s second-largest coal mine. But the project is going to result in the displacement of nearly 21,000 individuals, of whom 9,034 are from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) and 3,601 from the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities.

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While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had stated that the project will be implemented with public consensus, but the members of the displaced communities have expressed their reservations.


"We will create a model for India to execute large projects like Deocha Pachami Coal Block. This shall be done in phases & with full public support by adopting best mining practices in a time-bound manner. Wheels of development in Bengal won't stop even in times of crises," CM Banerjee had tweeted last year.

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The coal block, located in West Bengal's Birbhoom district, is spread over 13.7 square km. The seams of coal are trapped between thick layers of basalt. The government estimates peg reserves of coal and basalt in the area to the tune of 1,198 million tonne of coal and 1,400 million cubic metre of basalt. The state and Centre are planning to invest Rs 35,000 crore for developing the coal block, and spend another Rs 10,000 crore for relief and rehabilitation.

The compensation package for the displaced families includes Rs 10-13 lakh per bigha (0.33 acre), and Rs 5.5 lakh for relocation expenses. A 600 square feet home at a rehabilitation colony will be provided to the displaced families as well.

Additionally, the state government will be offering one adult family member from each household a job as a junior constable in the state police, which is expected to benefit 4,942 individuals.

160 agricultural labourers will get Rs 50,000 and 500 days of jobs under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme, while 3,000 workers at existing crusher units will receive a ‘maintenance charge’ of Rs 10,000 per month for 12 months.

Despite the compensation package, displaced families have raised contention with the size of the houses being provided in the rehabilitation colony, and the fact that only one adult from a household would be offered a job despite the fact that one household may contain multiple adults who lose livelihoods as a result of the move.

It is not just a matter of displacement either. India's investment in coal comes at a time where the world is moving towards decarbonising its electrical grids. But India’s continuing investments into the most carbon-intensive power source highlights the fact that while the country celebrates its increasing share of renewable energy, it is not abandoning fossil fuel sources anytime soon.

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