Controversial Projects

Who Are Adanis

Soumik Dutta

Reports on the Adani group's projects worldwide show massive illegalities, ecological and environmental destruction, human rights violation, tax evasion, money laundering and corruption. An ongoing coal based thermal power project in India which will supply its entire power to Bangladesh and import coal from Adani's Carmichael mines in Australia, points to crony capitalism, exploitation, corruption and violation of laws.

The Gujarat based Adani conglomerate is India's biggest port operator and the largest private producer of electricity both thermal and renewable. The group also has substantial interests in coal mining, civil construction, logistics, international trade, education, real estate, edible oils and food storage.

According to Forbes magazine, the Ahmedabad-based Gautam Adani had a net worth of US$8 billion as on 30 August 2017.
Gautam Adani, after a successful stint as a diamond trader in Mumbai, moved to Gujarat's capital Ahmedabad in 1981 to help start a cousin's firm to trade in poly-vinyl chloride (PVC).

He set up a commodities trading venture in 1988 under Adani Exports, and by the mid-1990s, Adani's business successes starting attracting attention.

The Modi-Adani friendship can be traced back to 2002, the year Gujarat witnessed gruesome communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. After the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) criticised Modi, the then chief minister, a group of local businessmen led by Adani, established the Resurgent Group of Gujarat (RGG) and threatened to leave the CII, supporting Modi.

Adani allegedly pledged a huge financial support for the first Vibrant Gujarat summit (that took place in September-October 2003).

During chief minister Modi, large tracts of land were given to Adani group at throwaway prices to set up India's biggest private port at Mundra on the west coast in violation of environmental norms.

The group was also exempt from payment of all stamp duties for the thousands of acres of land it acquired for the SEZ.

Godda Thermal Power Project
A coal-based 1600 MW (1.6 GW) thermal power project is being built in Jharkhand, one of India's most coal rich states, with indigenous people comprising the majority population in the proposed project site.
Adani's Godda plant however, depends entirely on imported coal from a mine the project proponent owns some 10,000 km away in Australia.

The Australian Carmichael mine has just about started construction work, just like the 1600 MW Godda thermal power plant, both having faced major delays due to numerous legal and financial hurdles.
Most interestingly, the entire power produced at the Godda thermal power plant is to be exported to Bangladesh.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government of Jharkhand state had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Adani Group for the 1.6 GW coal-based thermal power project, in 2016.

This was followed by forceful acquisition of land, severe violation of processes set by the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation & Resettlement (LARR) Act 2013, bulldozing standing crops of farmers, lying to villagers about the potential benefits of selling their land to Adani, and intimidating the affected people with police brutalities and lawsuits in the last two years.

According to the social impact assessment (SIA) report of the company, 1,364 acres, spread across 10 villages of two blocks of Godda, was to be acquired for the thermal power plant, which is supposed to produce 1,600 MW of electricity.

The Jharkhand government, as well as Adani claim that the project is a "public-purpose project with 'zero' displacement".

They add that the project will lead to generation of employment and economic development.

Even though Adani Power Limited is required to provide at least 25% of total power to Jharkhand as per the state's power policy, Adani which promised to provide it from "some other source", does not clearly mention the source.

To add insult to injury, the 1,600 MW megawatt project was given the status of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) by the Modi government just before India's 2018 national elections. It is India's first power SEZ, geared to fully export electricity.

Significantly, with the declaration of the project as SEZ, the state was no longer entitled to the electricity generated from the plant.

The project has also been approved for a roughly $700 million loan from the Power Finance Company (PFC), an Indian state-owned lender that funds power stations; and for another $700 million loan from the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), a state-owned company designed to help electrify Indian villages.

Huge contributions from Indian taxpayers (Bangladeshis and Australians too) are being blatantly granted to Adani group to produce electricity from imported coal (Carmichael mines Australia), in India's most coal rich state, and sell the same at exorbitant rates to Bangladesh!

Adani's proposed 1600 MW power station in Godda requires importing an estimated 5 to 6 million tonnes of coal from Adani's Carmichael mine in Australia each year. This arrangement is despite of India's own policy of phasing out imported coal.

On July 2015, a joint declaration was signed by Bangladesh and India during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh.

In August 2016, Adani Power signed an MoU with Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) to set up a 1600 (2×800) MW thermal power plant on build-own-operate (BOO) basis in Godda district of Jharkhand, India. Adani will export the entire power generated from the power project to Bangladesh.

Adani's Godda coal plant will draw 36 billion litres of water every year from the Ganges River, putting endangered species such as the Gangetic dolphin at risk, as well as the fish population.

Adani have already started using huge amounts of water from the surrounding villages in Godda with local farmers complaining that their wells are running dry and crops are failing due to ground water depletion.

The project received environmental approval in 2017, but there had been little progress on construction until Chinese company Sepco Three began construction in September 2019.

Adani wants the power station to be operational from 2022, roughly coinciding with its planned export of coal from the Carmichael mine in Australia.

Adani has also received an environmental clearance (EC) to build a 100km pipeline to extract water from the Ganges River at Sahibgunj, to use in the Godda power station. This approval is being challenged at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi.

The 1949 Santal Parganas Tenancy (SPT) Act was intended to prevent Adivasi (indigenous) dispossession by placing several restrictions on the transfer of land from farmers in the erstwhile Santal Parganas district, now divided into six districts, including Godda.

There is no provision in the SPT Act for the government to transfer land to a company. The SPT Act gives powers over the village's common property (gair mazruwa) lands, such as grazing grounds to village heads, not the government.

In blatant violation, such common lands too have been acquired by the administration and given to the Adani group on 30-year leases, while titles of farmers' land are being transferred to the company.

According to rules for the land acquisition rehabilitation and resettlement act (LARR Act) 2013, reiterated in the Jharkhand government's own LARR rules issued in 2015, the landowner's declaration giving or denying consent must be counter-signed by a district official.

The rules also state that a copy of this declaration, with the attached terms and conditions, must be handed to the affected landowner. None of the farmers who lost their land to Adani have these declarations. A group of sixteen resolute villagers have challenged the illegal land grabbing at the Jharkhand High Court.

Analysts in the field of energy and finance have said that the Adani's complicated plan to ship Australian coal 10,000 km to an Indian power plant can be made possible only by passing on the costs to Bangladeshi energy consumers.

The Bangladeshi electricity grid is already suffering from over-capacity, with 44% of its power capacity lying idle, and over a billion dollars currently being paid to energy companies each year for power that is not used.

Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies of the US-based think tank Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), said, "Adani power is the largest producer of renewable energy in India, which is now the cheapest among all other power generating sources of the country. If Bangladesh really needs electricity from Adani, they should ask for cheap renewable energy instead of high cost thermal power from Godda."

Bangladeshi researcher Sajjad Hossain Tuhin said, "Bangladesh will be purchasing electricity from Adani Godda Power plant at the rate of 7.53 BDT per unit, whereas solar energy price in India is only 2.74 BDT."

As a coincidence, recently, Bangladesh's minister of power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, surprised energy watchers recently when he said the country is planning to 'review' all but three of 29 planned coal plants.

At the Paris climate conference, Modi told the world that India would enlarge its forests to absorb 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Returning home, he directed the environment ministry (MOEF&CC) to loosen its regulations. India did not cap its emission, but ramped up renewables, while coal based thermal power still sustains its base load.

Significantly, coal mines were exempted from public hearings, irrigation projects proceeded without the proper clearances and the right of tribal village councils to oppose an industrial project was weakened.

The Ausrealian project has been mired in controversies, with disputes over its claimed economic benefits, financial viability and environmental damage it will cause to the Great Barrier Reef and the ground water dependent ecosystem of the Galilee basin.

Two bleaching events in the last two years have already killed as much 50% of the Great Barrier Reef. In addition, Adani group's project involves dredging of 1.1 million cubic metres of sea-bed near the Great Barrier Reef which raises risks of damage to the reef.

In response to a legal challenge by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the federal government conceded in the federal court that it failed to properly consider public submissions in passing judgment on Adani's North Galilee Water Scheme. In 2016 the Federal Court of Australia had dismissed a challenge by Australian Conservation Foundation.

Earlier, Adani Group had pleaded guilty to providing false or misleading information to the environmental regulatory authority in Queensland State in Australia. The local court fined the Adani Group AUD 20,000 (Rs 9.63 lakh).

Another challenge to the $21 billion (approximately Rs 1.4 lakh crore) mining project by the Wangan and Jagalingou indigenous community was dismissed.

Adani's Thermal Coal Mine in Queensland will never stand on its own two feet, Tim Buckley of IEEFA has stated in a report. Adani Mining Pty Ltd has current liabilities of more than $1.8bn versus current assets of less than $30m as of 31 March 2019.

In IEEFA's view, the Adani Carmichael thermal coal mine project would not open nor survive without billions of dollars in subsidies.

Insurance company Allianz "no longer offers single-site/stand-alone insurance coverage related to the construction and/or operation of lignite/coal-fired power plants and mines where lignite/coal is extracted", the firm announced in April 2020.

Global banks including Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase and more have ruled out financing coal projects with specific references to Adani Mining's activities.

The Supreme Court stayed a Bombay high court order of October 2019, which had quashed the Letters Rogatory (LRs) sent by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to several countries in connection with a case of alleged overvaluation of Indonesian coal imports involving some Adani Group companies.

A company in the Adani group had moved a Singapore court in an attempt to block the release of information via the Letter Rogatory route, the Indian Express reported in August 2017.

On 22 August 2017, the adjudicating authority in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) absolved two Adani group companies, Adani Power Maharashtra Limited (APML) and Adani Power Rajasthan Limited (APRL), of all charges laid out in a show cause notice issued by the DRI in May 2017.

Within a year of registering a case against unnamed Adani group officials and public sector bank officials relating to the equipment over-invoicing cases, the CBI had closed its investigation into the Adani group companies, on what were arguably rather flimsy grounds of jurisdiction.

It was after these events that a PIL was filed in the Delhi High Court by Common Cause and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation , two New Delhi based non-government organizations (NGOs) seeking the formation of a special investigation team (SIT) to look into all the allegations of over-invoicing in the power sector, both of coal and of equipment imports.

In another instance, the CBI has registered a case of cheating and corruption against Adani Enterprises and a former chairman and an ex-managing director of multi-state cooperative NCCF for alleged irregularities in selecting a company for a tender to ferry coal from ports to power stations in Andhra Pradesh

Chhattisgarh Scenario
As a resource-rich state, Chhattisgarh in central India is the site of frequent conflict between people and mining corporations. In the Hasdeo Aranya forests, the indigenous Gond people face the obliteration of their way of life as the Adani Group pushes for a barrage of new coal mines. The large open-cut excavations pose obvious threats to forests, streams and ancestral lands. More subtle is the erosion of culture and religion by this corporate agenda, with local people complaining that Hinduism is being foisted on communities with their own unique religious beliefs.

The election to the provincial government of the Indian National Congress party in 2018 gave people hope that these incursions could be avoided. When in opposition, the Congress had often castigated the previous government for alleged irregularities, accusing it of supporting the interests of corporations over the interests of the people. It has now been nearly a year and a half that the Congress has been in power. How committed has it been to its positions taken before assuming power? Is the clout of the Adani group able to force the Congress to renege on its previous commitments? And what have been the responses of communities fighting to save their livelihoods and traditions?

For a stretch of a few kilometres before and after Madanpur, the highway passes through the forest itself, an area that the local indigenous people are committed to protecting.

Why does this forest need saving? It is one of the largest contiguous tracts of dense forest in central India, covering 170,000 hectares and part of an elephant corridor that stretches across central India. It is a traditional home of Adivasi communities—India's indigenous peoples. It is also the catchment area for the Hasdeo River—a major tributary of the Mahanadi, a significant river in central-eastern India. However, the forest also lies over an estimated five billion tonnes of coal.

Thirty coal 'blocks' have been identified in the Hasdeo Aranya forest by the Indian government, and it should come as no surprise that India's biggest private player in the coal industry—the Adani group—is interested in exploiting them. The one coal block where the forest has been cleared and operations have started, the Parsa East Kanta Basan (PEKB) coal mine, is being mined by an Adani Group company. Mining has become a huge business for Adani. Its website lists seven coal mines and two iron-ore mines in Chhattisgarh at which Adani is the 'mine developer and operator' (MDO). Adani has secured the contract to mine two blocks adjacent to the PEKB mine—Parsa and Kente Extension respectively—so the stakes in the Hasdeo forests are being raised.

The campaign by the Adivasis against coal mining in the forests of the Hasdeo Aranya began after the PEKB coal mine started operations in 2013. The Adivasi residents of the blocks adjacent to it organised under the banner of HABSS (Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, the Committee for the Struggle to Save the Hasdeo Forest) to ensure no more of their forests would be cleared and mined.

It is a life-and-death struggle for the Adivasis. Hundreds of villages will be displaced if all the allocated coal blocks are opened up for mining. The people's livelihoods will be taken away by uprooting them from the forests. Yet under India's constitution, Adivasi majority areas are supposed to be protected under a provision that recognises their indigenous rights.

In previous years there had been some hope of support from the Congress party. In 2015, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited Madanpur and announced 'the Congress party and I are with you'. Now things have changed.

Jayanandan Singh Porte, 40, is a co-convenor of HABSS, and a resident of Fatehpur, one of the villages in the Parsa coal block adjacent to the PEKB mine. He met Gandhi on that visit in 2015. Now he ays 'we have lost some faith in Congress. They have refused to take up our forest-rights claims'.

Under Indian law, the Forest Rights Act, which enables people to claim rights to forest land and resources, should apply to the Hasdeo forest. Claims have to be validated by the government, and, once recognised, are a legal protection against land acquisition for industrial projects. Under the previous government, one such claim had been recognised and then dismissed. In the run-up to the 2018 state election, Congress had said it would take up the claims, but since coming to power, it has dithered. 'We have to see whether the Forest Rights Act or the Coal Bearing Areas Act applies; the two are contradictory,' the Chief Minister Baghel told NewsClick.

Now, as coal mining alters the landscape, self-sufficiency is becoming threatened. The coal mine threatens the Salhi River, a stream that feeds the Hasdeo River. Earlier it was at least 40 feet wide and a source of fish for the community, both for their own consumption and for sale. Now, residents say the water in the stream frequently turns black, due to—they allege—the PEKB mine's coal washery dumping its runoff into it. 'Initially this was a persistent problem,' says Bal Sai Korram, 49, an elected representative of Hariharpur village, that is virtually adjacent to the mine. 'The water would turn black every other day.' This was one of several issues on which the HABSS campaigned in its earlier years. 'We were able to put enough pressure on the company for this to stop,' continues Korram. In recent months, however, he says the practice has begun once again, albeit, less frequently.

Adani denied that its operations had affected watercourses in the area. 'The washery at the PEKB coal mine in India, which is owned by the state utility Rajasthan Rajya Urja Vlkas Nigam Limited, works on a 'zero discharge' principle,' said an Adani spokesperson. 'All water generated through washing is recycled through a system of belt presses and then reused. None of this water is discharged from the mining area into nearby water courses as it is all recycled.'

Another problem, Korram adds, were frequent road accidents that threatened the lives of people and wildlife alike during the first two years of the mine's operation. Low grade 'spillage' coal that is sold by Adani to industries in the state's capital—Raipur—used to be transported on large trucks, as the rail link was yet to be completed. 'Hundreds of our (Adivasi) people were killed in accidents involving the trucks transporting coal. Adivasis are not Hindus according to any scriptural definition or religious practice. They are animists who worship an array of local, nature-centric deities, though this is not recognised by India's official classifications of religion.

Adani is seeking to 'Hinduise' local prople, the villagers say. Two years ago, for the first time ever, the Hindu festival of Ganesh Puja (worshipping the Elephant God) was celebrated in Hasdeo. Adani financed bombastic celebrations in every village, says Samaylal Markam, 30.

'It can be seen as a kind of social engineering,' says Alok Shukla, the convenor of Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan (Campaign to Save Chhattisgarh), with destruction of Adivasi life from both ends. 'Their land, forest and livelihood are destroyed by coal mining and displacement, and their distinct culture and tradition are appropriated and replaced with commercial mainstream Hinduism, and they are slowly assimilated."

There is another way in which the company is affecting the local community. It has built a school and a skill-development centre side by side in Salhi, a nearby village. The school—Adani Vidya Mandir Salhi—was given an 'Empowering India Award' by India's central government earlier in the month.'

In January 2020 the Adivasi protest was suspended voluntarily by the HABSS as it had settled on a new tactic. Its members would stand for the panchayat election and seek legislative and executive power at the grass-roots level of Indian democracy.

(Courtesy : NEWSCLICK)

Vol. 53, No. 16, Oct 18 - 124, 2020