The 42-km road linking Chhindwara with Chaunsara winds through farmlands that grow wheat, soya bean, corn and pulses. On the surface, everything seems calm till you reach a barricade — about a kilometre before Chaunsura — and run into Anil (name changed), a private security guard manning a barricade.
“Where are you going?” he asks. “Chaunsara”… “Why?”
After the HT team tells him that it was going there on work, Anil calls up his superior to seek permission.
The barricade, built on a public road, is one of the several flashpoints between the residents of Chaunsara and four neighbouring villages and the Adani Pench Power Ltd (APPL), a subsidiary of the Adani Group (AG), which is building a 1,320 MW power plant in the area.
“How could the government allow APPL to barricade a public road? We now have to take a longer route to go out of the village,” said Juran Chandravanshi, a 46-year-old farmer. “APPL and the government want us out so they can grab more land.”
Local villagers further alleged that APPL has demolished the community’s crematorium, sealed drinking water wells and is encroaching on the common grazing ground and forest land. In an emailed interview, Roy Paul, associate general manager, corporate communications, Adani Enterprises, said these claims are bogus.
The anger against APPL, the BJP-led state government and the sitting MP, Congress’ Kamal Nath, is so deep that the residents of the five villages have decided to opt for NOTA (none of the above) in the April 10 elections in Chhindwara, MP.
The present controversy has its genesis in 1987 when the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board (MPSEB) acquired 750 acres of land in five villages to establish a power plant within three years and paid Rs 1,500-15,000 per acre. Two promises were made: jobs to one member of families who lost land and free power.
But the plant never came up, no land acquisition was done and farmers continued to till it.
However, in 2010, the MPSEB transferred the land to APPL for Rs 13.75 lakh per acre but the state did not weave in any rehabilitation clause in the contract with APPL. The public hearing, people allege, was a farce.
“Both the BJP and the Congress promised compensation but they did nothing,” said farmer Brahma Kureti.
“After some protests, the company paid Rs 1 lakh to some families,” said Aradhana Bhargava, an activist, who along with the villagers and activist Medha Patkar has taken APPL to the National Green Tribunal, challenging the environmental clearance granted to the company.
Paul, however, claimed that the company has all clearances and the consent to establish the plant from MPSEB.
Chhindwara district collector MC Chaudhary, who was removed last week by the Election Commission, denied these claims.
HT tried to contact Mohd Suleman, principal secretary, energy department, but he didn’t respond to SMS queries.