24 May 2012, Chhindwada
On May 24, first stop of Yatra was Babhandwada village of Chhindwada district where a public meeting was held by Kishan Sangharsh Samiti. While addressing the meeting, Dr. Sunilam, Ex MLA and head of the Samiti In the words of Bhagirath Verma… Bhagirath Verma of Kewlari village said that currently the farmers are cultivating onion, garlic and ginger but annual loss of farmers was increasing due of unjustified system of government. He said that in cultivation of onion in one acre of plot, cost was in the form of seeds worth Rs 3000, fertilizers worth Rs 4000, medication worth Rs 1000, plantation worth Rs 3000, soil making worth Rs 2000, pesticides worth Rs 1000, plucking of onion costing Rs 4,000 and transportion of Rs.1, 000 making the total cost of onion farming on 1 acre around Rs 19,000. Approximately 20,000 kilograms of onions were produced in 1-acre land which was sold at a rate of Rs. 0.50 per kg in the vegetable market. In this way only Rs 10,000 was received despite investment of Rs 20,000 in 1-acre making average loss of about Rs 10,000 per acre. He said that brokers having government license were buying onion from farmers at the rate of Rs. 0.50 per kg and selling it at the rate of about Rs.15 to 20 per kg in vegetable market. Most of the agents were buying it without license and selling it in vegetable markets of big cities through hawala. He said that due to this discrepancy, the farmers of onion, ginger and garlic of this area, were badly affected. He said that it was in similar ways that ginger farmers had to sell their produce at the rate of Rs 3000 per quintal whereas brokers who purchased it for Rs 3,000 per quintal were selling it at a net profit of Rs 15 to 20 thousands per quintal. said that farmers in this region were vehemently opposing the Pench Project. He said that in districts, Chhindwada and Seoni, the state government was given administrative sanction of Rs. 543.30 crore for this project in year 2003, which was ratified by the Planning Commission in the year 2006. Government of India planned for rehabilitation at the cost of Rs.101.35 crores and it was expected to be completed by year 2013. So far, only about 50% work on canal construction and only 5 % on dam construction was completed. According to available information, 7575 families of 31 viilages were to be affected and 5607 hectares of land was to get submerged. According to documents of the project, Machagonra dam is to be constructed on the Pench River. The proposed height of the dam is 630 meters which will irrigate approximately 96 519 hectares of land. He told that nowhere the consent of farmers was sought before implemention of the project. Conditions declared by the government were declared completely unacceptable by farmers of the area. Farmer Leader, Sigan Verma of Babhandwada village said that all farmers were fighting together against the Pench Project under the banner of Kishan Sangharsh Samiti. The villagers were not aware of conditions and necessary permissions which the project was supposed to get from environment department. This area was connected to Pench Sanctuary. With this dam, not only agricultural but forest land would also be affected. He told that the area was shown as dry wasteland even in those cases where farmers were cultivating 3 to 4 crops in a year. Sanjay Chandravanshi said that under this Project even the village community land was being acquired. He said that district administration held public hearing in the pressure of farmers but despite all objections, this project was given go ahead. Now a moral pressure was being built on farmers to accept compensation which was rejected by farmers. On the second leg of the Yatra, a meeting was organized by villagers. Senior advocate, Aradhana Bhargava said that when Pench Power Project was launched in the year 1988 by the state government of Madhya Pradesh, approximately Rs. 8.5 crore was spent by Electricity Board of Madhya Pradesh for initial work. After nearly 24 years, the new contract was made on September 23, 2010 with Hadani Power Ltd., Ahmadabad in this project. Earlier, this project had been given to Century Textile and then to Pench Power Limited. Earlier, Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board was preparing to set up two units of capacity of 201 MW. Madhya Pradesh
Electricity Board was provided a total of 740 acres of land including 717 acres acquired from farmers by erlstwhile government. In 1991-92, the Board stopped this project. Later on, neither the Century Textile nor the Pench Power Limited could start the work anytime. In year 1988, the government had acquired approximately 740 acres of land for Pench Project at rate of Rs. 9125 per acre at total cost of only Rs. 70 lakhs. Today this same land has been given to Hadani Company at a rate of Rs. 6.34 lakhs per acre at a total cost of Rs. 48.99 crores but farmer had not got any benefit out of this. According to villagers, now the company had started surrounding the whole village and a large number of land brokers were active for it. There is no protection to farmers by Government rather Government employees were indirectly helping the company by depriving the farmers of electricity and irrigation and thus hampering their agriculture. Kamli Bai said that after assessment, the land compensation rate was fixed only at Rs. 6,000 per acre in year 2006. Under pressure from farmers, the compensation was raised to Rs 1 lakh per acre but farmers were still not ready to sell their land. Kunj Bihari said that constant pressure created by land mafia over farmers had lead to violence and social tension. He told that no bilateral meeting had taken place between affected farmers and the government and this had made farmers not to be ready to vacate their land for compensation. On behalf of Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, Ram Kumar Verma announced that 100 farmers of this region would join Jansatyagrah.