Even as Gautam Adani is publicly contesting allegations of receiving benefits from the ruling party, tribals and locals in Jharkhand’s Godda district are giving him sleepless nights.
Protests by locals, led by Pradeep Yadav, an MLA from Poraiyahat in Godda, has led to a cost escalation of at least ₹1,500 crore for the company. Yadav belongs to the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, founded by Babulal Marandi, the state’s first chief minister.
It all started earlier this year, when the Adani Group announced plans to set up a mega power plant spread across 5,000 acres in Godda. Last year, the group had bagged a coal block in Godda. This block was earlier held by Naveen Jindal’s JSPL. Recently the group has also bagged a major power supply contract from Bangladesh. A plant in Jharkhand can be very strategic for Adani as far as supplying power to Bangladesh is concerned.
The group has started the process to acquire 5,000 acres in the region for its proposed power plant. Adanis received the first setback as soon as discussion on the acquisition price started. The new land acquisition price makes it mandatory for the floor price of land for such projects to be at least four times the prevailing market price. The challenge in fixing a price for the Adani project is that no land deal has ever taken place in the region. The land in question falls under the purview of local tribal laws, which restricts any outright sale, unless for specific projects as identified by the government.
As there was no base price available, the state government decided that the aggregate income of 15 years by farmers will be taken as the base price. By this calculation, the market price for the land was set at a meager ₹3.25 lakhs per acre, and the Adani Group was asked to offer ₹13 lakhs for every acre to the farmers. This calculation attracted major backlash from the locals, and the BJP government was forced to back off. Subsequently after discussions with all stakeholders, including local farmer groups, a price of ₹46 lakhs per acre was agreed upon.
Pradeep Yadav, who had first led the agitation on fixing price of land, has now come up with a fresh set of objections against the project. “I am not against the power plant. All we are asking for is transparency,” Yadav tells Newsd. The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha MLA has also suggested that the entire 5,000 acres should not be acquired in contiguity. “Such a big tranche of land in one stretch will destroy many villages. Land acquisition should be done in such a way that it does not uproot habitations,” he said.
According to Yadav, acquiring small patches of 500-600 acres each at 5-10 km distance is the best solution. “This does not affect the viability of the project. Production unit can be in one tranche. Residential unit can be located in a different area. Likewise washery can also be at a distance. This way the project can come up without destroying livelihoods,” he said.
The other commitment that locals are seeking from Adani is a firm commitment on creation of jobs. The Adani Group has to categorically state how many jobs it will offer to locals and in what grades. “We have seen in the past that to fulfill the statutory requirement, companies hire support staff at very low wages from among the local youth. This region has a very strong talent pool. We want the company to clearly state how many local jobs it will create in roles such as engineering, marketing, administration and at top management level,” Yadav asserted.
Newsd has contacted a spokesperson of the Adani Group for comments.