Two Unnatural Deaths Of “Most Critically Endangered” Tribals In Mining Areas of Jharkhand, NTPC Maintains Complete Silence On Loss Of Lives

After Kirni Birhor, Bahadur Birhor dies due to health hazards of mining, primitive tribe Birhor community holds NTPC and its MDO Rithwik- AMR Consotrium responsible for these deaths

By Vivek Avasthi

The mining beast, unleashed by NTPC’s Mine Developer and Operator (MDO), the Rithwik-AMR Consortium, is regularly thumping on the doors of the most critically endangered Birhor community in Chatti Bariatu Coal Mines,, where the orgy of death does not seem to abate. Two unnatural deaths have been reported from this area within the last six weeks.

After the death of minor girl, Kirni Birhor on 28th February, 2024, serious questions were raised on NTPC and the district administration. But instead of identifying the reasons behind the incident and the people responsible for this, they were seen making excuses rather than shifting the colony of primitive Birhor tribals, to some other safer place to live.

This matter had not dies down when the report came that 36-year-old Bahadur Birhor, died at 3 am on April 10. After the death of Bahadur Birhor, the angry people of Birhor community completely shut down NTPC’s Chatti Bariatu coal plant in protest from 6:00 in the morning till 1:00 in the afternoon. The OB Burden coal mining and coal transportation work in the mines was completely stopped. People of Birhor community were demanding that the people responsible behind the death of the youth, to come forward and dicsuss measures to be taken to shift them away from the area where there is rampant coal mining going on. Family members of the deceased said that due to the proximity of mines, dust, pollution and heavy blasting, Bahadur Birhor died.

No lessons learnt from the death of Kirni Birhor, who died just several weeks ago

It was on February 28, last, Kirni Birhor, a resident of Pagar Birhor Colony near NTPC’s Chatti Bariatu Coal Mines area, had died under suspicious circumstances. The district administration swung into action after requests were made from the state government to the central government to investigate the death of Kirani Birhor.

A large section of the society and many social organizations are raising questions on the death of people of Birhor community living near the Chatti Bariatu Coal Mines area. Almost two years have passed since the opening of NTPC’s Chatti Bariatu Coal Mines, but why till date no meaningful initiative has been taken to re-settle the people of Birhor community to safer places, away from mining area.

NHRC takes cognizance of the matter

In the meantime, social activist and whistle blower of the area, Mr. Mantu Soni alias Shani Kant, has approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on April 12, 2024, in the case of the abnormal death of the minor tribal girl, Kirni Birhor, who died under mysterious circumstances on 28th February, 2024. The NHRC, taking cognizance of the matter, has asked the Deputy Commissioner of Hazaribagh to take action in the case and report back to the NHRC within eight weeks.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs also swings into action

The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs has also taken up this matter seriously and has written a letter to the Chief Secretary of Jharkhand in this regard.

Is cost of a Human Life simply peanuts

While the Birhor community, a primitive tribe standing on the threshold of extinction, faces the backlash of illegal coal mining in Jharkhand, the farce is that dependents of the deceased (if any) are promised a paltry Rs. 5,000 per month for living, one adult member is given one time cash compensation ranging between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000, along with “free cremation” of the deceased and a promise of a job to one adult in the family.

Rampant, illegal and unplanned mining – a threat to rivers, flora and fauna

There have been earlier reports with pictorial evidence that the flora and fauna of Chatti Bariatu area is under constant threat from the rampant, illegal and unplanned mining by the MDO, which is just seems to be interested in finishing its mining targets well in time. Though promises were made, that the Birhor community tribals would be shifted to a safer place once mining starts, promises remain unkept as usual.

Moreover, there is clear-cut evidence blockage of at least one kilometer of “Chotki Nadi” with Over Burden (OB), which has stopped the natural flow of water from the river. But due to reasons better known to local authorities, no one seems to care either about the lives of the tribe nearing extinction, not about the damage to the local river, which happens to be the life-line of the area and its residents.

Birhors : ‘Most Critically Endangered’ ethnic group according to UNESCO

Counted among the ‘Most Critically Endangered’ ethnic group among the eight ‘primitive tribes’ of Jharkhand, Birhors constitute only about 0.01 percent of the total tribal population of India and their main concentration is in Jharkhand. According to UNESCO, the Birhor tribe in Jharkhand is “critically endangered” with only 2,000 speakers remaining. The Birhor are one of the smallest primitive tribes of Jharkhand, and according to the 2011 census, there are only around 5,000 Birhor people in the state. Birhor is also listed by UNESCO as an endangered language.

Near NTPC’s Chatti Bariatu Coal Mines area, where mining is being done by M/s. Rithwik-AMR Consortium, there is a population of 250 persons belonging to the Birhor community and about 40 of these are children.

Several email to Mr. Rithwik Ramesh, President of Rithwik Projects Private Limited, did not receive any reply. An email sent to CMD NTPC, Shri Gurdeep Singh and Secretary (Power) Government of India, Shri Pankaj Agarwal, also met the same fate. An email sent to the Corporate Communications Division of NTPC, also elicited no response.


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