Congress vs Congress in Chhattisgarh over forest mining projects

He was the Chhattisgarh Congress chief in 2018 and a vocal opponent of coal mining in the Hasdeo Aranya forest in the state’s northern part at the time. On Saturday, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel hit out at those opposing mining in the area and said they should stop using electricity and “AC, fan, and cooler” before fighting for their cause.

“People are claiming eight lakh trees will be cut when, in reality, only 8,000 trees will be cut this year,” Baghel said at a press conference in Kanker on Saturday. “Those trying to politicise the issue should first stop using electricity and AC, fan, and cooler and then fight for the cause.” But the voices of dissent are emanating not just from just Adivasis in the region or the Opposition. Sections of the Congress are also against the project, with even former party president Rahul Gandhi expressing reservations about mining in the area as recently as last month. The sprawling forest is known for its biodiversity as well as its coal deposits. The forest falls in the districts of Korba, Sujapur and Sarguja districts with a sizeable tribal population. The Hasdeo river, a tributary of the Mahanadi, flows through it. While Baghel had attacked the previous BJP government and Adani Enterprises for ruining the forest for profit, he says his government in March gave a go-head for coal mining in 1,136 hectares in the Parsa East-Kete Basan (PEKB) coal block after ensuring all the rules were followed. Both the Parsa and the PEKB coal blocks are owned by Rajasthan, which also has a Congress government. Despite a Wildlife Institute of India (WII) report advising against coal extraction in the forest, the Rajasthan government had been desperate to get the mines functional, citing a shortage of coal for power generation in the state. Earlier this year, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot flew down to Raipur to urge Baghel to approve mining in the area. Adani Enterprises is in charge of mining in both blocks.