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Rediff.com  » Business » Chhattisgarh farmers ready to give land: Govt

Chhattisgarh farmers ready to give land: Govt

November 19, 2009 10:41 IST

FarmerRamsingh Sai willingly sold his two acres of land to a private power company in Pusar village of Raigarh district for Rs 300,000 a year ago. Now, he stands to get Rs 15 lakh (Rs 1.5 million) more.

The other villagers gave away their land to Korba West Power Company, for setting up a 750 Mw power plant, for Rs 900,000 per acre after hard negotiations.

At a public meeting held recently, the company said it would pay the difference to all those, including Sai, who sold for less.

Barring the pockets where the Naxalites have their sway, the villagers and farmers in Chhattisgarh have proved quite willing to sell land to industry for a good deal.

In the past one year, the state government had allotted just 1,500 acres for industrial projects, while the companies had directly bought about 6,200 acres. Now, 3960 families have been affected from the projects.

"These villagers do not avail the R&R (relief and rehabilitation)," says social activist Ramesh Agrawal.

Senior officials of the companies confirm that villagers do not have any reservations in giving away their agriculture land.

The aggregate demand for the land from the different projects in the state is about 30,000 hectares. The government has so far acquired just five per cent of it.

"Since most of the companies that have signed agreement with the government are yet to submit requests for land, the government has not acquired," says Anurag Pandey, an industry department official.

"It (purchasing directly from farmers) is easier and quick," says officials of GMR Power, which is setting up a 2,000 Mw plant in Tilda, 40 km northeast of Raipur.

The deeper problem for the government is in the pockets affected by the Naxal movement. Since these pockets in Bastar and Dantewada districts come under tribal areas, companies cannot purchase land directly from the villagers, while the government moves with high caution.

For the past four-and-a-half years, the authorities are struggling to acquire about 5,000 acres of land and move out 1,707 families for the Tatas' mega steel plant in Lohandiguda area of restive Bastar. It has distributed the compensation but failed to take physical possession of the land.

In the Essar case, it cannot even start the process. Essar is setting up a plant near Dantewada and will require about 1,500 acres, displacing 506 families. The plant is coming up in the worst Naxal-affected pocket of Dantewada, 450 km from Raipur while Tata's project near Bastar is in a relatively less-affected area.

Yet, the rebels have entered the latter region, too, and have openly opposed the Tata steel plant in the area.

"It cannot be said when we will draw the boundary and hand over the land to Tata," says Bastar Collector M S Paraste.

"The villagers in Chhattisgarh are not opposing industries until they are provoked by outsiders," say experts. When terror flows from the barrel of the gun, one can imagine the situation of poor tribals (in Bastar), they add.

The rebels have driven home the point by gunning down Vimal Meshram, who helped the administration to convince the villagers to give up their land for the steel plant.

The killing comes with a warning-anyone supporting the plant will face the same consequences.

R Krishna Das in Raipur
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