The ongoing wind power projects in Maharashtra could be in trouble. An inquiry committee — appointed by the government to probe alleged irregularities while setting up the projects — recommended the state acquire those that have violated the norms. The committee also recommended criminal cases be registered against the officials responsible for dereliction of duty.
The report, which was tabled in the legislative council on the last day of the budget session, stated there were a wide range of irregularities in the way the land was acquired and environment rules were flouted by the companies that set up the plants. The report stated that of the 4,287 transactions related to land acquisition, 409 were illegal or failed to follow the legal provisions. Most of the violations were related to provisions in rules related to land ceiling, forest and landholding. The report has also stated that though 5,089 hectares of land was acquired through 2,877 transactions, the projects have not been set up as yet.
Around a decade ago, wind energy was seen as a booming sector and the state government came out with a policy to boost the non-conventional energy sector. A number of industrial houses invested in the wind farms in the Sahyadri mountain ranges in western Maharashtra and some places in north Maharashtra.
The inquiry committee was set up in March 2010 after members of the legislative council alleged violation of acts and cheating of farmers during land acquisition by the companies. The members alleged cheating by the companies, non-compliance of corporate-social responsibility, non-payment of government dues and crop loss, among others. The committee was headed by the then additional chief secretary (revenue) M Rameshkumar. Though the report was submitted to the government two years ago, it has been made public only now.
The revenue department received numerous complaints of violations of existing norms and laws related to the land acquisition. In some cases, the regularisation of irregularities is possible, but in the cases where it is beyond repair, the government needs to take over the projects and hand it over to its own power generation companies,” the report stated.
State power minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has convened a meeting to discuss the subject next week. “We will discuss the action that needs to be taken on the report in a meeting convened at the Maharashtra electricity development agency,” he said.
Industrialists have pressed for modest steps by the government. “Taking over of a running project is not a good idea because it will disturb the power-generation process. There were irregularities, but there is another side, too. The rates of the baron and unirrigated land were inflated after the announcement of the projects. The unreasonable opposition to the projects resulted in a loss of the wind power projects to neighbouring Gujarat,” said Nitin Dhule, chief promoter of Khandesh industrial development council.