This Makar Sankranti festival, the skies in Madban village of Ratnagiri district will not be dotted with kites. Instead, as a mark of protest against the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, villagers have decided to fly black flags atop their homes.
“The festival is going to be a black day for us. What is there to celebrate and be happy when our livelihoods are at stake,” said Anil Tilotkar, a Madban resident.
For the last few months, residents in Madban and neighbouring villages of Niweli, Karel and Mithgawane have been protesting against the setting up of six imported European light water reactors from France.
Land in Niweli, Karel and Mithgawane that will house utilities for the staff employed in the plant has already been acquired despite the fact that villagers have not accepted compensation cheques.
Currently, the acquisition process is being carried out for the 700 hectares in Madban where the reactors will be housed. On December 29, the first batch of 700 villagers in Madban also refused cheques. The next date for acquisition is on January 12 and the process will be completed on January 20.
While the villagers do not want to part with their land comprising paddy fields, mango orchards and dry grass, they also claim that the compensation amount of Rs 2.86 per square feet offered by the state government is a pittance.
“With so much uncertainty, no one is in a mood to be a part of all that fun surrounding kite flying or making some sweets at home. The atmosphere is very dull,” said Prajakta Patil, another local resident. “We just might not have our land after Sankrant.”