National Council for Land Reforms
President – : Ekta Parishad
Surajpur district of Chhattisgarh is facing a very challenging period in the history of their existence. Thirteen of her dear villages will disappear because of IFFCO power plant. We were able to visit some of these villages during Jansatyagraha Samwaad yatra and we were disturbed by what we saw and heard during our interaction with local people. In the first phase of the project 6 villages will disappear and people in these villages have got compensation to the tune of 80,000-1,50,000 per acre of their land. These six villages are: Mudgaon, Katmuda, Narayanpur, Salka, Namna, and Raghunathpur. None of them really want to part with their land. They love their land and they love the village in which they were born and bought up. They were forced to sign documents giving consent for land-acquisition and soon they will be forced to move out of their villages. The assets created by many generations and the assets that will be used by many future generations will all be gone in one strike. What they have gained is clearly not enough to buy new land. The market is waiting outside to grab the money that they received as compensation. As soon as the compensation process starts, you would notice showrooms of automobile companies, electronic goods come up in the area. Luxuries suddenly become necessities. The little compensation will soon be spent and soon they will join the hugeoceanofBelow Poverty Linepeople. This is just one example from Chhattisgarh to show how culturally and economically rich people are transformed into people living below poverty line. In the second phase of this project, Kotaya, Mahora, Vidhyachal, Sarasta, Navaparakala will be affected. Besides the villages in Surajpur district, Gangapur and Geji villages of Koriya district will also be displaced. These people haven’t received any compensation even though the project is already operational. Other than private land, large area of forest land and commons like grazing land will also be used and destroyed by this project. There are three more villages that are going to be affected. They are Mendra, Kataroli and Tara. The land of these villages will be taken for the rail line and coal field.
Even though the night was very cold, villages came in big number to lodge their complain. According to the villagers, the company is trying to use all means to take the land. Those who are resisting are singled out and punished. The district administration is at the disposal of the companies. This is an area where the Forest Rights Act is not implemented properly. As a result the adivasis who are cultivating forest land will lose both: land as well as compensation. One Mr. Bhagavan Ram told us that he was forced to sign the documents and out of fear for life, he finally signed the document. He does not want to surrender his land and the person who forced him is not an ordinary guy. He is the upper Collector himself. The villagers also said that the so called Gram Sabha (village committee) resolutions are not true and they are all falsely fabricated. As no one is listening to their complaints they are now going to take shelter in the judicial system.
Another group of villagers came from Koriya district. Representative of Gangapur reported that they haven’t even received a notice from the government but the construction of a dam has already begun. They are going to lose about 15,000 acres of land for the power plant, water beraj, pipeline and coal field put together. Such complaints are not limited to Surajpur alone. We were repeatedly listening to such complaints in Jashpur district as well as in Raigarh district. The level of displacement due to industrialization and mining has gone so far that the local people are giving up rather than standing up to fight the corporate sector. There is absolutely no one within the government or among the opposition parties from whom they can expect a patient hearing. Anyone who is opposing this process of land-grab are termed as anti-development groups. I can see the nearly the same kind of picture as I am travelling through Sundargah, and Jharsuguda. Sponge iron factories with their outdated and polluting technologies are coming up one after another. Beautiful mountains, forests and paddy field have become completely black and you can imagine what must be happening to people who are living in those areas. Even those who are committed to the ‘development’ of India through this process need to take some time to sit back and reflect whether it is worth it to destroy the environment, natural resources and the people of this region for making capital which will then be ploughed back into the same area in the name of ‘welfare’ schemes. Shouldn’t we find a better way to govern the country?
(Charka Development Network carried this piece and picked up by several online portals)