It is an agitation,which is feared to be a second Nandigram in the making. With villagers stonewalling the administrations attempt to clear encroachment on government land,Essar companys proposed 1250-MW power project in Singrauli district of MP has met its first hurdle.
The Rs 9,000-crore project will require 450 acres of government land and about 1,250 acres of private land. While the full-scale acquisition of the private land is yet to begin because the affected farmers and tribals are demanding more compensation,the government is finding it difficult to honour the commitment of handing over its own land.
On Wednesday,a clash broke out between the administration and agitating land losers,who have set up a camp in Badhoura village,about 40 kms from the district headquarters of Waidhan. Land in Khairahi. Nagwa and Karsulal villages will also be acquired for the two-phase project.
Divisional Commissioner S K Ved said several policemen sustained injuries when the agitating villagers resorted to stone-pelting to foil demolition of hutments that have recently come up in the hope of getting compensation. Even before Wednesdays clash,the local police had registered cases against 10 villagers for allegedly harassing company and government officials.
Essar Power Madhya Pradesh Limited plans to commission the first unit of the thermal plant by October 2010 and the second by January 2011. Its CEO,Rajendra Prasad Gupta,said the company was ready to give compensation over and above the governments 2002 land policy and a job to a family member. The company is offering more than Rs 5 lakh per acre for irrigated land and an allowance of close to Rs 4,000 per month to those aged between 18 and 58 years,even without having to work. Both the administration and the company alleged that the affected had been instigated by some elements to demand compensation of up to Rs 30 lakh per acre. They claimed the ratio of genuine claimants to fraudulent ones was 1:1.
The government is worried that more compensation in this case will be taken as a precedent as hundreds of acres of land will be needed to set up future projects. Several companies have signed MoUs with the state government to set up projects in this coal-rich district ringed by Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Ved said the agitating members of the Visthapan Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti had refused to enter into negotiations and even abused the district collector when he went to talk to them last month. The administration made one more attempt to talk to them but did not succeed.
Badriprasad Mishra,a CPI(ML) member,alleged that the local administration has created a reign of terror in the villages,forcing residents to flee to evade arrests for offences they did not commit.
The agitating leaders alleged several genuine claimants were being left out of the compensation process. Many of the affected had settled in these villages after being evicted from other areas where government projects had come up over the last four decades,they claimed.