Mining firms halt process of handing over compensation cheques to Thar villagers

Updated Jan 09 2020

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The villagers said that they had reached the agreement with officers after hectic and lengthy dialogue. — AFP/File
The villagers said that they had reached the agreement with officers after hectic and lengthy dialogue. — AFP/File

MITHI: Executives of the mining firms engaged in extraction of coal in Thar Coal Block-I have stopped the process of handing over compensation cheques to over 380 residents of Varvai village near Islamkot town for their houses and other structures, which are to be dismantled to make room for the coal projects.

The executives had reached consensus over the mode of compensation with the notables of the village a couple of weeks back and the two sides agreed that each household would receive a cheque for Rs4.2 million by Dec 31 last year.

After the agreed deadline passed, the villagers were informed that they would now get the cheques in the first week of January on account of annual financial close of banks, said sources among the beneficiaries who wished not be named.

“The mining firms’ officers have reversed their decision of payment of compensation directly to the villagers after Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah asked villagers of coalfields during an address at Salam Pakistan Culture Festival in Mithi on Saturday not to receive compensation cheques for houses and structures and put their trust in Sindh government for getting quality residences in model villages,” said the sources.

The sources said that the chief minister had also directed both the government officers and the executives of the mining companies to stop the process of cheques’ distribution in a meeting and also requested lawmakers from Tharparkar to convince the villagers not to sell the land of their villages to the firms.

The chief minister had reportedly directed the officers concerned to look for suitable land for the resettlement of the villagers who were likely to be displaced due to the mining.

“The chief minister, after successful resettlement policy adopted by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company in Block-II, wants to replicate it for other blocks of coalfields,” said the sources.

A number of officers of the mining firms confirmed to journalists the villagers’ claims and said that they were stopped by the government high-ups from going ahead with the process of compensation.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Amin Lanjo, Mohammad Zakir, Kewal Meghwar, Nangar Khan, Mumtaz Ali and other notables told journalists after holding a protest outside Islamkot Press Club on Wednesday that they were shocked to learn them that the firms had “backtracked” on the agreement they had made with them over payment of compensation through cheques.

The villagers said that they had reached the agreement with officers after hectic and lengthy dialogue and they had already purchased land and houses in Islamkot town and other areas of Thar for their resettlement in the belief that they were soon to get the compensation amount.

They deplored that they were already facing a number of problems due to massive mining activity in the area and were finding it hard to continue to live there. Therefore, the ongoing extraction of coal be halted till they moved out of the area, they said.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2020