Maheshwar dam land acquisition award lapses as developer fails to cough up rehabilitation amount
The failure on part of the developers of the Maheshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh to pay the state government funds to rehabilitate people who would be displaced by the project has brought cheer to those opposing the dam. The proceedings for acquisition of the houses of 6,500 project-affected families lapsed because the developer, Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited (SMHPCL) of the S Kumars group, did not pay up. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which is opposing the displacement by the dam, has demanded that in light of the group’s repeated failures to live up to its financial obligations in matters of rehabilitation and project completion, the project be scrapped and the land status before the construction of the project be restored.
According to the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, the land acquisition award for any project has to be passed within two years of notification under Section 6 of the Act.
The process of the acquisition of 6,500 houses in the villages of Pathrad, Sulgaon, Bhatian Bujurg, Mardana, Nagawan, Amlatha and Sasabarud in the Khargon district, which were to be displaced by the dam, was started on March 5, 2010. At that time, the SMHPCL entered into an agreement with the state government under Sction 41 of the Act, under which it was required to deposit the entire Rs 740 crore meant for rehabilitation with the government in advance. However, the company proceeded to illegally carry out further acquisition work under Sections 6 and 9 without making the requisite payment. The payments have not been made till date despite repeated demands from the land acquisition officials and the superintending engineer of the Madhya Pradesh Power Management Company (MPPMCL). Since the Section 6 notification was made on March 11, 2011, and the award could not be passed, legally, the land acquisition proceedings have lapsed and become void.
No rehabilitation work
According to SMHPCL’s own documents, out of the Rs 3,300 crore spent on the project, only Rs 203 crore has been spent on rehabilitation work. According to the Supreme Court orders and the terms of reference for environment clearance of the project, rehabilitation process should be completed before the construction of the dam itself.
MPPMCL, which is responsible for rehabilitation work, had issued a show-cause notice regarding the persistent default in payment of rehabilitation money to SMHPCL in May 2012. The reply submitted by the company in the same month was also rejected by the MPPMCL.
R S Balodia, land acquisition officer of district Khargone denied any knowledge of the award having lapsed or implications of the same. Collector Navneet Mohan Kothari could not be contacted for comments.
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