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Transfer of capital with ‘coercion’ and ‘fraud’

Chhattisgarh govt faces villagers in court for the way land was acquired for new capital

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Naya Raipur | Published: June 14, 2012 2:24:33 am

Naya Raipur,Chhattisgarh’s upcoming new capital and any government’s dream,is being built around discontent on the ground,the main complaint being of land acquired forcibly and without adequate compensation. The Nayi Rajdhani Prabhavit Kisan Kalyan Samiti,an organisation of around 6,000 farmers,has gone to Bilaspur High Court.

The 8,013-hectare township will have six-lane roads,elite housing societies and clubs,a Vedanta Hospital and an international cricket stadium,besides the new secretariat. What is Chief Minister Raman Singh’s dream today was actually conceived during the tenure of Ajit Jogi,the state’s first chief minister. When the Jogi government banned land sales in the project area in 2002,the BJP opposed the project. Chhattisgarh minister Punnu Lal Mohile,then an MP,had written to prime ministerAtal Bihari Vajpayee against it. Today,the Singh government has taken it forward,replacing a Capital Area Development Authority set up by Jogi with a Naya Raipur Development Authority.

There is one other change. A six-lane road takes an abrupt diversion near the capital complex. Had it gone on,it would have passed through 130 acres owned by minister Brijmohan Agarwal and another BJP leader,Satyabala Agarwa. Brijmohan,Raman Singh’s number two,had opposed the project during Jogi’s tenure.

Acquisition

Naya Raipur has 41 villages,in 27 of which the NRDA has acquired over 5,500 hectares: 130ha through compulsory acquisition,2764ha by transfer of nistar (community) land and 2,724ha by mutual agreement,says S S Bajaj,NRDA CEO. 

Farmers say the government drained them of options. In August 2005,the Raman Singh government banned land sales in the 27 villages except to the NRDA. “Where is the mutual consent? Whenever we needed money,we had to sell land at their price,” Kisan Kalyan Samiti secretary Kamta Prasad says. 

Bajaj says the price was decided in a meeting with farmers,who claim it was fixed unilaterally. In a July 2006 meeting with then housing secretary P Joy Ummen and Raipur collector Subodh Kumar Singh,now special secretary to the CM,zilla panchayat member Ghanshyam Tandon noted that “the actual market price is more than determined by the collector’s guidelines”. “None of my suggestions was considered,” Tandon says today.

Sales began in 2006 at Rs 12.37 lakh per hectare,including compensation. In July 2009,when the NRDA was offering Rs 14.75 lakh,the government invoked the emergency clause giving the collector powers to acquire land within 15 days of a notice. Villagers in Barauda,for instance,were forced to sell to the NRDA rather than accept the Rs 4.30 lakh per hectare under the clause.

In March 2011,the NRDA bought nearly 80 hectares at Rs 14.75 lakh (all inclusive),days before the rate was raised to Rs 17.90 lakh.

Today,the rate in the 27 villages in Rs 25 lakh a hectare,again including compensation. In many of the other 14 villages,it is Rs 1 crore,leaving villagers hopeful of a similar offer. “Lift the ban,let’s negotiate with buyers,” Kamta says. NRDA chairperson N Baijendra Kumar says the ban is to protect villagers from middlemen.

Bajaj denies coercing farmers while Kumar says: “We have given exemplary compensation,the best for any such project anywhere.”

Farmers allege the NRDA leased their land at Rs 1.14 crore (residential) and Rs 1.82 crore a hectare (retail). Bajaj says any money earned is put back into the project.

Rehabilitation

The NRDA recently told the court it has provided Rs 772 crore to affected farmers,besides land elsewhere. It has built two small colonies,20 one-room sets in Jhanjh-Navagaon and 200-odd homes of 400sq ft in Rakhi village. Bodhi Ram,who gave up ¼ acre for Rs 1.25 lakh,lives with his family of 15 in a single room without sewerage or water in the pipes.

Those who sold by mutual consent are given an 8-per-cent relaxation in stamp duty if they buy land in the state. Nearly half the farmers have profited,says Bajaj. A Chhattisgarh Nirman Academy trained some youth into carpenters,foremen and electricians but they are yet to get a job.

Nistar land

Following a January 2011 Supreme Court direction to all state governments not to occupy nistar land,then principal secretary (revenue) Sunil Kumar Kujur issued a circular on March 10,2011,asking collectors them prepare a list and not to encroach on or acquire such land.

For Naya Raipur,the government transferred 2,764 hectares that included ponds,grazing grounds and graveyards. The NRDA then mortgaged land to HUDCO for a loan of Rs 555 crore.

In Barauda,youths Rakesh,Sandeep and Domeshwar point out their village head’s tomb in a graveyard where a housing colony is now coming up. Through the graveyard at Chicha village,a road runs now.

“In a modern township,the nature of nistar land changes,” says Baijendra Kumar,insisting this does not amount to violation of the court order. “Graveyards are important in a village but in a city they must be developed in a systematic manner. We are providing an alternative.” Bajaj promises nearly 2,500 hectares will be demarcated as nistar. 

The court case

The November 2011 High Court petition names Ummen and the Raipur collector among the respondents,alleges coercion and fraud,demands a ban on further construction and challenges the sanctions granted. Farmers say Jogi’s plan had involved barren land but the present plan has acquired mostly agricultural land.

On February 24,Justice Satish Agnihotri stayed acquisition in the area. Court records show the case was transferred the same day to judge Prashant Kumar Mishra,who lifted the stay. Mishra,incidentally,was additional advocate general in the Singh government (2004-07) and advocate general (2007-09) before being elevated as High Court judge.

The transfer of the Mantralaya was scheduled last November,then postponed to April. As of now,trucks still carry construction material to the upcoming capital.

Farmer by farmer

Bharat Lal Chandrakar (above) of Palaud alleges the government ignored the trees and other structure on his land,which should have made him eligible for higher compensation. Government officers inspected the area and allegedly reported that his land has no such structures or trees. The Indian Express visited the spot and found several trees and two borewells.

Bal Mukund Shivnarayan’s land has a road running through it,making it eligible for higher compensation,but the SDM report does not mention it. “We go by what the SDM recommends,” says the NRDA’s S S Bajaj.

Suresh Kumar’s three-acre plot in Barauda had a six-lane road started through it even before the land had been acquired. He says the land is yet to be formally acquired. Bajaj admits Suresh Kumar has not been compensated but adds the money has been deposited with the collector.

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