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“Forcible” land acquisition in Madhya Pradesh for coal-based power plant: Villagers warn self-immolation

Medha Patkar addressing a village meeting
By Our Representative
Villagers of Madhya Pradesh affected by top industrial house Welspun’s going ahead with acquisition of 1,600 acres for a thermal power plant are showing signs of restiveness. A high-level team led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, which visited the area, has found that, already, two farmers have committed suicide to show opposition to “land grab”, and many are openly declaring that they would self-immolate.
Proposed to be built in areas around village Bujbuja in Katni district, already, 582.25 acres have been acquired for the 1980 MW thermal power plant. Of this, 314.6 acres come under three villages -- Bujbuja and Dokariya villages. Initially, Welspun was to acquire 2,400 acres, which was scaled down later to 1,600 acres.
A statement issued by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the apex body of tens of mass organizations across India, following the visit of Patkar to three of the affected villages, Bujbuja, Khurd and Katni, said “Villagers of Bujbuja have claimed that Welspun has taken over the land forcibly and paid compensation to fake bank accounts against fake documents.”
It added, “The company is continuously stopping villagers from cultivating the land acquired forcibly by digging large pits. Kushwaha families of the village used to grow vegetables and others cultivated three crops every year as a source of their livelihood on these fertile lands. The availability of water resource near the village was a boon.”
Senior activists accompanying Patkar to the affected villages included Dr Sunilam, Advocate Aradhana Bhargava, Jasvinder Singh (CPI-M), Kamla Yadav, Ramashray Yadav, Raghvendra Singh, and Ravindra Singh.
The NAPM said, in all “450 families are going to be affected”, adding, the land acquisition is taking place ignoring “the role of Gram Sabhas by the government.” It claimed, the Gram Sabhas of the affected villages have “rejected the proposal”, so the question of land acquisition does not arise.
Welspun, said NAPM, is not just seeking to acquire land, but also “the easily available water”. It added, the location where the plant is come up is “strategic” as it would help “easier transportation of raw materials”.
Welspun, said NAPM, has “already got the water access approval from Bansagar Dam”, apart from getting “assurance of coal supply”, though it has still made “no plans for appropriate disposal of fly ash.”
NAPM said, “There are many technical faults in the Environmental Impact Assessment report submitted by Welspun. The project site is only 10 km away from the buffer zone of Bandavgarh National Park, which can face ecological damage due to drainage of effluents coming out of the power plant through Mahanadi river.”
During the meeting with villages, it was decided that Gram Sabhas of affected villages would hold emergency meetings and pass “a resolution for not giving away land”, said NAPM, adding, it was also decided that that campaign against the project would be stepped up in nearby rural areas.

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