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Displaced, again

It will be the fourth time since Independence that Singrauli villagers will be uprooted, reports Debobrat Ghose.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2009 01:08 IST
Debobrat Ghose

A spectre haunts the villagers of the coal-rich Singrauli, a spectre of displacement that too the fourth time since Independence.

The 1,250 MW power project of Essar Power MP Ltd , to come up on 1,250 acres, will displace the villagers from Bandhaura, Nagwan, Kairahi and Karsualal, mostly tribals, for ‘less than a pittance’ according to the villagers.

“We’ve been living on this land for more than 70 years. Our grandfather built this hut. Now the administration, police and company are forcing us to vacate the place without even talking of any kind of compensation,” complained Mohan Saket, a villager.

The villagers were displaced for the first time for the Rihand dam project in 1952, then for National Mineral Development Corporation’s (NMDC) coal mines in 1965 and then again for the National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) thermal power project in 1980. “ The poor tribals who comprise more than 35 percent of the population.

But the administration and the company are not ready to consider any change. “We’re told to deposit compensation money to the collector for distribution among the (affected) villagers by the land acquisition officer. The administration would take care of the encroachers”, said Essar Power MP Ltd, CEO Rajendra Prasad Gupta. Gupta admitted that the company could acquire only 60 acres of land against the required 1250. But it has already installed heavy machineries adjacent to tribal hutments on the site. Dismissing the claim of the villagers, collector Vivek Porwal told HT , “the huts were built after issuance of the notification under Section (4) of the Land Acquisition Act and would not be considered for compensation.”

Incidentally, Essar may be not the end of the villagers’ struggle to keep their land intact. Singrauli’s world-class coal blocks have attracted at least Rs 64,000 crore investments in power, alumina and mineral-based projects and most of them will involve large chunks of land.