Game of Chess, India Bangladesh Enclaves, Constitution Amendment and Godda Power Plant

Godda Coal Power Plant

I must confess that I am a great fan of the present BJP-RSS government, its intelligence and the manner it executes various projects for the so-called “national interest”. From demonetization to disarm the opposition political parties of cash, dramatic launching of GST at midnight of July 1, 2017, quashing of Art 370 and 37A, pushing various agendas of “Hindutva”, winning elections for the benefit of corporate friends, reservation for EW section of the upper castes in general category are few which systematically incarcerate dissent among people. The most fascinating corporate friendly business model is given below,

It was on May 7, 2015 when the Constitution (119th Amendment) bill of 2013 with only Sirajuddin Ajmal (AIUDF) in opposition, was passed to amend the 1st Schedule of the constitution to exchange the disputed territories occupied by both India and Bangladesh in accordance with the 1974 Indira Gandhi – Sheikh Mujibur Rahman bilateral Land Boundary Agreement and applauded by all. The bill after the assent of the President, entered in to the statute book as Constitution 100th Amendment Act, 2015. Interestingly the BJP, when was in opposition, vigorously opposed any such land transfer had a major change of heart after 2014 and performed its first highly applauded act within and outside Parliament.

India shares 4,096 km land boundary with Bangladesh, covering West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram with 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in Indian territories. In local parlance these enclaves are called Chhits (fragments), together they are Chhit Mahal.

History of India-Bangladesh Conclaves or rather Chhit Mahal is layered. Legend says that around three centuries ago, Raja of Cooch Behar and the Faujdar of Rangpur in Mughal Bengal played chess or cards or pasha (dice) with local villages as stakes. According to Historian Brendan R Whyte (Waiting for Esquimo: An Historic and Documentary Study of the Cooch Behar enclaves of India and Bangladesh, 2002), enclaves are the “result of peace treaties in 1711 and 1713 between the kingdom of Cooch Behar and the Mughal empire, ending a long series of wars in which the Mughals wrested several districts from Cooch Behar.”

After the partition in 1947, Rangpur was joined with East Pakistan or later Bangladesh. The Princely state of Cooch Behar with its enclaves merged with India in 1949. Thus, turning these Indian enclaves in East Pakistan/ Bangladesh and Pakistani / Bangladeshi enclaves in India an international issue.

The ambition of modern nation-state to produce clear-cut borders complicated the situation by the presence of these patchwork jurisdictions. The June 6, 2015 land Boundary agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh came into force in the first visit of Prime Minister Modi to Bangladesh settling the issue. Through this deal India transferred its 111 bordered enclaves to Bangladesh in exchange of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves. India gifted more than 10,000 acres of land to Bangladesh and demarked 6.1 km boundary between India and Bangladesh. According to LBA, people inhabiting these land parcels were free to choose the country they want to live and migrate.

Both the nations, in the same visit, also signed 22 agreements, including cooperation in maritime safety and agreements to curb human trafficking and fake Indian currency and of course water, power, finance, connectivity, trade and defence as the the areas of co-operation identified during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in January 2010. As a result, Bangladesh began acquiring 500 MW of electricity from India from 2013, which increased to 1,160 MW in 2018.

Adani Group CEO Gautam Adani also accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. The price of excess land was immediately extracted in favour of Adani via an MoU between Adani Group’s Adani Power Limited (APL) and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), where APL would construct 2 x 800 MW thermal power plants on build-own-operate basis exclusively to provide electricity to already electricity sufficient Bangladesh who will not only be burdened by the excess electricity but will also bear all the transit and operational costs for 25 years.

After the plant is commissioned and comes online, Bangladesh will be paying around $450 million a year as capacity and maintenance charges even if it does not generate a single unit of electricity, a price to be paid for next 25 years of agreement period. A great model of extracting the cost of land half the size of Hong Kong or 2,000 cricket stadiums, transferred in a bid to demark 6.1 km of boundary between the two countries.

According to the MoU of June 2015, APL will supply 1600 MW of electricity to Bangladesh. Consequently, in August 2015, Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) and APL signed an agreement by which APL would construct 2 x 800 MW thermal power plants on build-own-operate (BOP) basis within 13 months. Adani decided Jharkhand as the site for the thermal power plant construction. An agreement was signed with the Jharkhand government in January 2016 for this purpose. The 2 x 800 megawatt (MW) ultra-super-critical thermal power plant is under construction at Godda in Jharkhand. The state of Jharkhand is entitled to buy 25% of the electricity generated from the power plant built in Jharkhand. Adani says it will meet this obligation from another source while charging Jharkhand a price based on Godda Project, which the experts say will be higher than the other source. How can the Jharkhand government not agree to such a defeating proposal? As a result it amends the 25% rule and  (1496 MW) will be exported to Bangladesh for 25 years keeping only 6.5% of the electricity generated from Godda plant for running the plant. It is also interesting to note that Adani proposed to supply the 25% electricity to Jharkhand Govt from a different plant and not from Godda plant. It is very difficult to understand how the electricity rate is different. Is there a quality change in the energy?

The coal as a raw material will arrive from the Australian coal mines owned by Adani at Carmichael in Queensland, via 400 km rail to Adani’s Abbot port. The coal will then travel 8041 km by waterway to Adani’s Dhamara Port in Odisha, India. From Dhamra it will reach Godda via Rourkella-Ranchi by 700 km dedicated railway corridor in the former princely state of Sundargarh. Sundargarh is a tribal state where the lands of the tribal community cannot be acquired by Indian Law  as  per the Instrument of Accession with the princely state. Indian government in 2018, promised 7 acres of land to every displaced family for Rourkella Steel Plant. Instead of fulfilling the promise Odisha state has setup a technology university and a hockey stadium on the land earmarked for the distribution to the displaced tribe. Interestingly, the APL won the bid of Jitpur coal mine in Godda in 2015 but its coal can only be used for the thermal power project in Mundra, Gujrat. The Allotment of Jitpur coal mine with end-use restriction was cancelled on October, 2021 as APL could not operationalise the mine in time.

Water for the plant will come from Ganga in Sahibganj, 100 km away from Godda, through a pipeline corridor. A pumping station and reservoir will be constructed at Sahibganj. 100 km pipeline corridor with multiple reservoirs along the way will finally drain the water in a reservoir at Sugabathan in Poraiyahat Block in Godda.  Sundar dam at Godda will also be expanded.

The electricity generated at Godda has to reach Rangpur power grid in Bangladesh through a 4-lakh volt high-tension line, completely bypassing the Indian grid system. The route of this dedicated 106 km high tension line in Indian side from Godda to Barapukuria at Bangladesh border via Farakka in West Bengal. The high-tension line of the same distance will go from Barapukuria to Rangpur Power Grid in Bangladesh side. Tata group will lay the high tension line in the Bangladesh part.

Adani’s business model is just about profit! Coal from Adani mine. Imports and exports will be through Adani ports. Coal will reach Godda through dedicated railway, water will come from Ganga through special pipeline corridor. Adani Transmission Company will lay 400 KV high tension line in the Indian side. Why will there be any barrier to Adani? No matter how much the people of Godda, Shahibganj, Gangpur or Farraka protest, the company hardly cares. State machinery, starting from highest level politicians to police all is in his pocket. Water level will drop, fish will not be available, Ganga ecosystem will be destroyed. Who cares! The country belongs to Adani. How beautifully Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal are now captured. There will never be any difficulty in getting environmental clearances and approvals. Laws can always be twisted in his favour. Coal-rich Jharkhand is importing coal from as far as Australia. Bah Adani Bah!

Why just India? Now Bangladesh too is Adani’s! From transporting coal from Damara port to Godda, extracting water from Shahibganj, power transmission from Godda to Barapukuriya, all kind of maintenance and up-keeping expenses will be borne by Bangladesh. Whatever amount of electricity be generated Bangladesh is bound to accept all. In case Bangladesh fails no worries. Bangladesh will bear the entire cost. The people from Bangladesh fear that Adani’s Thermal Power Plant project completion may end by next year. If not fully at least one 800 MW unit will start releasing smoke. It might take 2024 end to complete and become fully operational.

The only award that India is getting out of this business is pollution. When the generated electricity cannot be used then why one should burn coal and impact the environment? Is it to loot Bangladesh?  The people of Bangladesh are opposing this agreement. They are pointing out that according to Adani’s contract the price of electricity will be one and a half times the electricity generated in Bangladesh, demanding modification/cancellation of the contract. The government of Bangladesh says that they cannot unilaterally cancel the 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Agreement can be amended/cancelled by the consent of both the countries. Can anyone imagine that Indian government will want to harm Adani? Bangladeshis are also questioning the feasibility of this coal-based plant. In this connection it may be mentioned that India pledged at the COP-26 in Glasgow that by 2030, 50 per cent of the country’s total electricity needs would come from renewable energy and reduce the domestic economy’s dependence on carbon by 45 per cent. Is the building of new coal-based thermal plants is just for Adani’s profit?

Humans are humans! Will he give everything so easily to Adani? They know the power of organized struggle. Land is always taken away from the marginalized people. Adani-Ambanis prosperity is paid by the poor people. They have become poor to poorer and these crony capitalists have become richer. So, they are not giving up the fight. Even today they are fighting in the villages of Mali, Motia, Patoa, Gangta and Nayabad in Godda and Sandiha, Petbi, Gayghat, Mali and Rangania in Pariahat. They want their land back and are clinging to the last possessions that Adani wants to snatch. Sahibganj is fighting and  not allowing the pump to draw water from the Ganges. The tribals of Odisha are fighting, they don’t want the railway line from Dhamra Port to Godda to carry Australian coal from their land. From Godda plant to Pakur, Farakka Ballalpur, Samspur, Gholakandi, Dadantola and Imamnagar in Murshidabad district, the power line will reach Rangpur Power Grid of Bangladesh via Nawabganj, Rajshahi, Bangladesh over Padma. Construction of 400 KV high tension line from Godda to Pakur in Jharkhand to Farakka in West Bengal across Padma to Bangladesh. Thousands of bighas of agricultural land will be acquired (read expropriated). A case against laying the 400 KV high tension line over Farakka is filed in Calcutta High Court. The million-dollar question is “will the judgment go in favour of people”?

Nisha Biswas is an activist based in Kolkata


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