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Most of 31,000 Uttarakhand dam affected families to get "peanuts" as compensation, says fresh calculation

By Our Representative
A fresh calculation following the recent Uttarakhand government’s announcement that it is “ready” to pay six times what is called the “circle rate” as compensation payable to the projected affected families (PAFs) of the proposed 5,040 MW Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project (PMPP), has suggested that the distribution of the total amount – Rs Rs 6,520.1 crore – would be “highly skewed” and “unequal.”
According to official sources, the Pancheshwar dam is likely to lead to land acquisition to the tune of 3,735 hectares (ha) of private land. The Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report, prepared by government-appointed consultants, WAPCOS, estimates that it would impact 31,023 families in three districts of the state – Pithoragadh, Almora and Champawat.
The calculation, carried out by the civil rights organization Mahakali Lok Sangathan (MLS), based in Pithodagadh, Uttarakhand, has unearthed a stark reality: In just one village, Majirkanda, would be getting 65% (Rs 4,211.39 crore) of the total compensation amount, even though in just one district, Pithoragadh, 23 villages would be affected.
“As per the SIA report, 1,279.21 ha land (which 34% of the total land to be acquired for the project) falls in one village, Majirkanda of Pithoragarh district”, an analysis, by Srendrandra Arya and Prakash Bhandari based on the calculation says, adding, “It is unclear how such a large chunk of land is falling in just one village.”
“Compare this to another project affected village in Pithoragarh district, Kaanadi, which will be totally displaced by the dam”, the analysis says, adding, “A total of 3.9 hectares (195 naalis) of private land is to be acquired here, and the compensation rate here amounts to Rs 80,000 per naali (circle rate is Rs 20,000 per naali).”
“Even if this is multiplied six times of the applicable circle rate of the area, it amounts to about Rs 1.2 lakh per naali”, the analysis underlines, suggesting this is far below the actual market rate.
“The main question, which the PAFs are raising, is whether with this amount it is at all possible for a family to buy fertile and productive land in a well-connected village in the area. For instance, if people of Kaanadi were to search for land around Wadda, the current rates there are around Rs.7-8 lakhs/naali”, the analysis says.
Kailash Chand from Kanaadi village laments, “There are 40 plus families who will be completely displaced in the village and this dam is a nightmare for us. All the figures of land in the survey are incorrect. The amount of land involved is substantially higher than has been recorded by WAPCOS in the SIA report”.
Pointing out that similar is the case in with 13 out of the 20 impacted villages of Almora district, the analysis says, “In Champawat district, where out of the 15 villages, seven will be impacted, the compensation rate is worse, Rs. 0.50 per naali. Even six times circle rate won’t enable farmers to buy land elsewhere.”
Worse, the analysis says, the calculation suggests that 23 villages of Pithoragadh alone villages would be paid Rs 5,452 crore, i.e 84%, of the total compensation budgeted for private land acquisition, i.e Rs 6,520.1 crore.
“It is important to note that these 23 villages have less than one fourth (23%) of the total PAFs – 7102 of the 31,023 PAFs”, the analysis says, adding, “As a result of this inequality about 80% of the PAFs will get amounts equal to peanuts for the kind of fertile and diverse land base that will be lost. It is clear that the displacement because of the dam will push thousands of families into poverty and an economic crisis.”

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