Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has been in the news recently for his attempts to prevent the central government from allowing Adani Enterprises to mine coal in a forest area located in the state. Baghel has been staunchly opposing the move, which he thinks will have a significant impact on the environment and the livelihoods of local communities.
The conflict between the Chhattisgarh government and Adani dates back to 2019 when the latter was forced to halt construction on a railway line that would have facilitated transportation of coal from the Parsa East and Kete Basan mines in the state’s Hasdeo Arand forest region. The project, which was aimed at increasing the company’s coal output, was criticized by many for its potential to destroy a pristine ecosystem and harm indigenous people who live in the area.
The Chhattisgarh government, then led by former Chief Minister Raman Singh, had issued a notice to Adani, stating that the project did not have the necessary permissions from the state’s forest department. Singh’s decision marked a significant departure from his previously pro-corporate stance and reflected a growing trend of states pushing back against the central government’s efforts to open up more areas to mining.
After Baghel took over as the Chief Minister in December 2018, he continued the state’s opposition to Adani’s project. However, the company took the issue to court, arguing that it had already invested a substantial amount of money into the project and that the state’s decision was preventing it from exploiting valuable resources.
The court initially sided with Adani, stating that the mining project could proceed without the state’s permission. However, Baghel’s government appealed the decision and won a stay order from the Supreme Court in September 2020. The court’s decision was seen as a victory for the state government, which had argued that mining in the Hasdeo Arand forest would cause widespread damage to the region’s biodiversity and water resources.
Despite the Supreme Court’s stay order, the central government continued to push for Adani’s mining project. In July 2021, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change issued a draft notification that would have allowed mining in the Hasdeo Arand forest, among other ecologically sensitive areas.
Baghel and his team were quick to raise objections, arguing that the notification would undermine the state’s ability to protect its forests and wildlife. The Chief Minister even led a delegation of state officials to Delhi to raise their concerns with the central government.
However, the central government remained unmoved, citing the need to boost economic growth and job creation. It also pointed out that Adani had promised to invest in afforestation and wildlife conservation in the region, which would mitigate the environmental impact of its mining operations.
Baghel responded by staging a sit-in protest inside the Parliament House complex in August 2021. He was joined by several members of the ruling Congress party, who accused the central government of putting corporate interests ahead of environmental concerns.
The protest sparked a heated debate in Parliament, with opposition parties supporting Baghel’s stance and criticizing the central government’s decision. The government, on the other hand, argued that Adani’s mining project was crucial for India’s energy security and that it would comply with all environmental regulations.
In the end, the central government agreed to defer its decision on the draft notification, giving the Chhattisgarh government more time to present its case. Baghel hailed the move as a victory for the state’s environment and its people, stating that he would continue to oppose any development that would harm Chhattisgarh’s natural resources.
While Adani Enterprises may have suffered a setback in Chhattisgarh, the controversy surrounding its mining project has highlighted the growing trend of states taking a more active role in shaping India’s development trajectory. With environmental issues continuing to be a contentious topic, it remains to be seen how the central government will balance the competing demands of growth and sustainability.