A fact-finding team, led by Medha Patkar, and including Om Dutt Singh, Manoj Tyagi of Swaraj Vidyapeeth, Rajeshbhai of IPF and Seema Azad, a progressive journalist, visited three villages in Karchhana tehsil, district Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh, where the government is planning thermal power plants. A National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) account of the visit, which took place on May 24:
It was one of the three thermal power plants in the region that was first questioned on the grounds of undemocratic imposition of the Project on those who would become landless and homeless. The three crop land being taken away through forcible land acquisition under the 1894 Act but with urgency clauses, which deny a hearing, is to affect the livelihood of the poor and the medium sized land holders in the area since 2008. Brutal atrocities were resorted to, when the government decided to go ahead without even due compensation and rehabilitation. FIRs under false charges were filed against their leader Raj Bahadur Patel and others. The villagers were also beaten up in 2011 following a long relay hunger strike and are frequently subjected to brutality by the State.
Meanwhile, the High Court of Allahabad heard the petition against violation of Land Acquisition procedure prepared and pleaded by Advocate Ravi Kiran Jain and ordered the cancellation of Section 4 and 6 notifications under the Land Acquisition Act, in April 2012. The order directed, that the state government, through the special land acquisition officer, should recollect the amount of compensation paid to the oustees and after such recovery transfer the land/houses that were acquisitioned, in their names.
The District Magistrate issued a notification and published a public notice with names of more than 1800 oustees who could return the compensation but within 30 days. The time limit was actually not justifiable as the Court order didn’t refer to any limit. However, even when about 20 Project Affected Persons approached the district officials within 30 days, offering to return the amount received, whether 40,000 or a few lakhs, the officials refused to take the same. Others too tried, and sent letters to the officials but received no response. These persons filled the repetition in the Allahabad High Court for returning the amount received which is pending.
The team met farmers of Kacheri, Bhagesar and Kachera who were all keen to return the money although they were told by the henchmen of Jai Prakash Company and its associate Sangam Power Generation Company that, their returning money at this stage will not bring any benefit as that is not to fulfill the condition of time limit of 30 days. Once again a petition was filed by other person before the High Court and the Court reinforced the 2012 order asking the people to return back the cash even in 2016 and declared that the previous order would be applicable to all the PAF’s and not just the farmers-petitioners.In spite of 2 Court orders, the people are harassed and left out of the process to gain back time.
Women in Bhageser expressed readiness to lose money since they do not want to lose land. Their counterparts in other villages too felt the same way. The most repressed family is that of Raj Bahadur Patel in village Kacheri who is absconding and a price worth Rs 15,000-20,000 is offered on his head. All women, men and youth vouched that Raj Bahadur is a non-violent, young leader and all charges against him are false. In village Kachra, there was a unanimous decision among all the families present that they would like to get back the lands in their names at whatever cost.
The case of Karchhana once again brings out not just the callous state promoting land grabbing in the name of development projects but also the arrogance among the corporatized politicians and parties with their bureaucrats that leads to total non-compliance with even the judicial orders and directives. The people are ready to fight with the hard earned achievement in the form of the 2012 and 2016 judgments and need support from all organizations and concerned citizens who are ready to stand with the concerned farmers.
When Mr. Modi was branded as anti-farmer and was compelled to 3 ordinances attempting to amend the 2013 new Land Acquisition Act, against the farmers, will Mr. Akhilesh Yadav’s government exhibit any difference while dealing with the down-to-earth farmers wanting to hold to agriculture as their livelihood and culture itself?