As the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) plans gala celebrations to commemorate its silver jubilee, the residents around its Singrauli project - the first super thermal power plant the company set up - watch with satisfaction, but also some measure of regret.
Although incorporated in 1975, NTPC produced and transmitted its first unit of electricity on February 13, 1982.
There is satisfaction because NTPC is now the largest thermal power producing company in the country, and the sixth largest in the world. But the residents also remember the lands they lost so that the power producing giant could be built.
A small fraction of the 100 odd families displaced by the Singrauli plant were able to secure jobs at the Singrauli plant. But most only got modest compensation. Many more families lost their lands too when the nearby Vindhyachal and Rihandnagar plants were built subsequently.
Shivnath and Tej Pratap Mishra are among the lucky project affected people (PAP) who got jobs at the NTPC's Singrauli plant in 1982 itself. Recalled Shivnath: "My family was displaced not once, but twice. First, when I was a child in the 1960s, we left our village Ranibari because the Rihand Dam that was being built would have inundated it. Then we had to shift again in the late 1970s, because of the power plant. By then I was married and had a family."
Those affected by the displacement caused by large projects like the NTPC's at Singrauli - or for that matter, Sardar Sarovar or the numerous special economic zones (SEZs) - can never be fully compensated, no matter how successful the projects later prove. The tinge of pain over the loss of land and home lingers, even if life changes for the better.
"It is painful to be moved and have your land and house taken away. But, when we look back, it has been better for our children and our health," said Tej Pratap Mishra, an assistant in the Human resource department.
He had to compete for the job against 22 other male members of his extended family, part of the compensation for the land they lost. "There has been improvement," he agreed. "My children are engineers or at least graduates, while I could go no further after intermediate."
"Health services have improved. We now have roads and railways which we didin't then," said Shivnath an assistant plant operator. But asked about his house and land, he lowered his head. "We had no choice," he mumbled.
Are such projects justified, when they displace so many people? Both replied in the negative. "What is yours is dear, it cannot be replaced," Mishra said.
Dilip Krishnan, assistant at the boiler plant of the Singrauli power project, and a winner of the Prime Minister's Shram Ratna award, nodded in agreement.
"The people of this village were warm and cooperative despite being subjected to repeated displacement. We would not have completed 25 successful years without their support," he said.
Apart from the Rihand dam and the NTPC's three plants, other projects like the nearby coalmines of the Northern Coalfields (NCL) as well as the Uttar Pradesh government Anpara power project have also displaced large numbers. There are indeed families here who have shifted three or four times in a single lifetime, paying the price of the nation's progress.
Shivnath, Mishra and Krishnan all have about 13 years each of working years left.
"We would like to see more of my children getting jobs at NTPC," said Shivnath. Krishnan, however, hopes NTPC to remain a leader and successfully meet the challenges posed by private power producers.