On Wednesday, the opposition in the Chhattisgarh assembly created an uproar in the state assembly over the cutting of more than 15,000 trees in the biodiversity-rich Hasdeo Aranya region to make way for coal mining. As a result, 30 of their MLAs were suspended by the speaker.
Due to the impact of mining on the flora and fauna of the region, they demanded discussion over it. The opposition pointed out that it will also impact the Hasdeo River and Bango dam, thus impacting irrigation, and the life of tribals in the region and can also trigger human-elephant conflicts.
During the Zero hours, Charandas Mahant, the leader of the opposition, moved a notice for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue. The speaker, Raman Singh, rejected the notice, which provoked protests from the opposition leaders. The speaker ended up adjourning the session for five minutes due to the uproar.
When the speaker went on to list the business of the day, the Congress MLAs trooped into the well of the house with slogans. The speaker, then, suspended 30 Congress MLAs who were demanding discussion on the matter. The speaker later revoked their suspension.
On 26 July 2022, the Congress-led government had already unanimously adopted a private member’s resolution urging the Centre to cancel all the coal blocks in the Hasdeo area. They said that a letter was also sent to the Centre regarding this resolution but without any response or actions from the Centre.
Mahant questioned the order of the BJP-led government by claiming that the Chief Conservator of Forest of Chhattisgarh had already issued an order on 11th December last year for the clearing of 15,307 trees in the Hasdeo area. This is significant because at that time, the Congress government had resigned but the BJP government led by Vishnu Deo Sai had not yet taken the oath.
If the government had passed a resolution against mining in the Hasdeo area, then how was such an order issued by the Forest Department, Mahant questioned.
Former Chief Minister, Bhupesh Baghel, also said, “What was the invisible power that forced the grant of permission for tree felling when the assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution against it?”
MLA Atal Srivastav criticised the destruction of tribal lands and questioned the need for expansion of coal mining blocks when the existing coal mining areas allow for long-term extraction according to the Mining Development and Operation (MDO) agreement with the Adani group.
MLAs of the BJP like Dharamjit Singh questioned the efforts of the previous government to protect tribal rights.