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HYDERABAD, Nov 7: Experts at a consultative meeting while discussing the draft of Thar Coal Resettlement Policy Framework expressed their concern over proposed measures for land acquisition, providing alternative sources of livelihood and rehabilitation of the affectees.

The meeting on Thursday was organised by the Research and Development Foundation (RDF). Experts present on the occasion aired their concerns in the presence of representatives of the Thar Coal & Energy Board (TCEB) representatives and its consulting firm which formulated the policy framework.

Former provincial secretary Gul Muhammad Umrani suggested removing the provision of engaging the office of deputy commissioner in land acquisition, compensation matters and the mechanism of grievance redressal. He believed that the office of deputy commissioner in Sindh province was a controversial place to deal with resettlement issues. He suggested engaging meritorious land acquisition officers to avoid political influence on the land acquisition process.

Masood Mahesar, executive director of the RDF, asked the policy makers to devise a plan for leasing land from the locals instead of purchasing it. He called for developing technical skills of the people of Thar so that they may be able to get jobs on the Thar coal field. He said that royalty and production bonus should be primarily used for investing in development in the area.

Another participant Ali Akbar Rahmoo questioned the delayed process of policy formulation. He said that the government had already awarded a license to three companies for coal exploration, while the Tharparkar deputy commissioner had also issued a notification in the government gazette for adding approximately 6,000 acres of land to be explored by a company.

Nature conservationist Nasir Ali Panhwar recalled that the national resettlement policy which had been formulated in 2002 was still a draft and needed to be finalised. Meanwhile, he said, the Land Acquisition Act 1894 was being invoked for land acquisition. He said that this act was in defacto use pertaining to land resettlement issues and didn’t give weight to social, cultural, economic or the environmental landscape of an area.