By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESWAR, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Villagers in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand vowed to continue their protest against a coal mine after four people were killed when police opened fire during clashes at the weekend, forcing a halt to operations at the site.
Villagers in Hazaribag district say state-run NTPC Ltd has violated forestry rights and did not offer them jobs or adequate compensation when acquiring land for a coal mining site. A company official said compensation paid was fair.
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"We will not bow down. We will intensify our agitation," Yogendra Saw, a protest leader, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
Conflicts over land rights erupt frequently in India, as more land is sought for industrial use and development projects in the fast-growing economy.
NTPC had paid the villagers 2 million rupees ($30,000) per acre as agreed, said B.B. Mohapatra, a human resources official at NTPC. Villagers were now demanding three to five times that amount, he said.
"The situation is very grave," he said.
"We have stopped work at the mine site. We will restart after the situation is back to normal," he said.
Police had been deployed in Hazaribag and the situation is "under control", senior police officer M.S. Bhatia said.
Several laws have been introduced in the past decade - including the Land Acquisition Act 2013 and the Forest Rights Act - to protect the rights of farmers and indigenous people. But some laws have been diluted in their implementation and not always helped the vulnerable, activists say.
In August, two people were killed in Gola district in Jharkhand when villagers protesting the loss of their homes to a power plant clashed with police.
Earlier this year, the Jharkhand government approved amendments to two laws to enable the acquisition of tribal land for commercial use.
Environmentalists have criticized the move, saying more checks and balances are needed to prevent the misuse of land in the resource-rich state where tensions run high between poor farmers and industrial developers.
(Writing by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)