Monday, November 16, 2015

Farmers' activists "attacked" for protesting against Madhya Pradesh power plant: "Forcible" land acquisition?

By Our Representative
Five farmers’ activists, including secretary of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (KSS), Sajje Chandravanshi, were reportedly “brutally attacked” in village Chaunsara of district Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh. The incident, said National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of mass organizations across India, took place November 14, 2015 when the villagers of the area were protesting against the construction of Adani – Pench Power Project.
Resistance to the project has been going on for the “past many years due to forcible land acquisition, water diversion from Pench and environmental illegalities that the project proponents have deployed to construct the environmentally damaging 1,320 megawatt (2 x 665 MW) coal-fired power station”, the NAPM, which is led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, has alleged.
“It is important to note that this is not the first time that KSS activists were attacked”, the NAPM said, adding, “A similar attack took place on May 22, 2010 where advocate Aradhana Bhargav and Dr Sunilam faced assault.”
Then, in 2012, Medha Patkar and 21 KSS activists were arrested in a November night by police in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh as part of a police clampdown on protests against the water diversion project of Pench Power Plant in the district.
“Instead of bringing perpetrators to trial, police harassed the villagers a few months ago when the village meeting held in Chandravanshi’s house was forcibly stopped and the ‘pandal’ was dismantled”, NAPM said. “Police also picked up the innocent indigenous tent maker to further dampen the spirit of the people who are bravely fighting for their rights in the Supreme Court and in their villages.”
The NAPM claimed, “The power station received environmental clearance in 2012, which was legally challenged in 2013 by villagers. Proceedings before the National Green Tribunal were stayed by the Supreme Court on January 6, 2014.”
Despite this, it said, “In April 2014 it was reported that a barricade had been built on a public road between the residents of five villages including Dhanora and Chaunsara, and the Adani Pench Power Ltd.”
Pointing towards another threat that looming large over 31 villagers – of displacement due to the proposed dam on Pench river, even as completely submerging six villages – the NAPM said, the total area to be submerged is estimated to be 5,607 hectares. “The dam will provide uninterrupted water to the plant at the cost of irrigation and drinking water for local populations”, NAPM contended.
The petitioners in the case against the project, Medha Patkar, Aradhana Bhargav and Chandravanshi, have stated that the Environmental Clearance (EC) was obtained by the Adani Pench Power Ltd in October 2012 “through falsification, concealment and misrepresentation of facts and information”, the NAPM said, adding, “The Ministry has overlooked the blatant violations of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 at nearly every stage of the EC process by the various respondents.”
According to NAPM, “Land for a thermal power plant was acquired almost 25 years ago by the then Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB), which was later transferred to the Adani Power Limited.” Yet, “The project was not started and the physical possession remained with the farmers, who had been tilling the land till the time they were forcefully displaced by the company.
Worse, NAPM said, “Construction activity of the project commenced as early as in March, 2010, prior to grant of environmental clearance and although the commencement of the construction was brought to the notice of the state and Central authorities, no action was taken against them.”

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