Were Chhattisgarh activists protesting Adani the real targets of IT survey at CPR?

A view of the Gevra coalmines in the Korba district of Chhattisgarh, photographed in 2009. Rupak De Chowdhuri/REUTERS
04 March, 2023

Before suspending the FCRA license of the think tank Centre for Policy Research, the income-tax department conducted a months-long investigation that included a strong focus on the protests against coal-mining projects operated by the Adani group in Chhattisgarh’s Hasdeo Arand region. Two coal blocks in this region are operated by the Adani Group as part of joint ventures between the conglomerate and the Rajasthan government’s power corporation. The IT department has questioned activists involved with the protests against the mines in relation to the CPR survey, and used chats from one such activist’s phone in its show-cause notice challenging CPR’s license under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. The Caravan has accessed a copy of the show-cause notice.

The Parsa East and Kanta Basan, or PEKB, and the Parsa coal blocks in the Hasdeo Arand region are operated by Adani Enterprises Limited, the Adani group’s flagship company, under a joint venture with the Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited, the power corporation of the Rajasthan government. As The Caravan had reported in 2018, the partnership between the RRUVNL and AEL is running on terms that violate a 2014 Supreme Court ruling. The 2014 judgment was aimed at ending the “Coalgate” scam, where government entities had illegally offered lucrative deals to private companies. Even by conservative estimates, these terms, which pre-date the 2014 ruling, allow Adani a profit of at least Rs 6,000 crore over a period of thirty years. A petition by the Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sankarsh Samiti, a collective comprising people of villages affected by the coal projects, challenging the land acquisition process for mining operations in the Parsa block is pending before the Supreme Court.

On 27 February 2023, the home ministry suspended CPR’s FCRA registration “for a period of 180 days.” The suspension came close to six months after the IT department conducted a survey at CPR’s offices in Delhi, on 7 September 2022. (Disclosure: Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at CPR, is a consulting editor and long-standing columnist at The Caravan,)

The show-cause notice to CPR, issued in December, focusses strongly on the think tank’s work with Jana Abhivyakti Samajik Vikas Sanstha, or JASVS, a non-governmental organisation based in Chhattisgarh. Some members of JASVS are connected to the Hasdeo movement. By associating JASVS with the protest movement, the IT department claims that CPR has helped fund “individuals engaged in resisting the mining operations in Chhattisgarh.” Both CPR and JASVS have denied any allegations of wrongdoing.