Their sit-in protest in front of the Fatehabad mini-secretariat in Haryana completed 525 days on January 25. It has yielded little result. Yet the farmers from Gorakhpur, Kumaharia and Kajalhedi villages of Fatehabad district who are opposing acquisition of 608 hectare (ha) of their land for a nuclear power plant are determined to fight till the end.
In October 2009, the Centre approved setting up of the nuclear power plant. The 2,800 MW power plant is being constructed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
It would use pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) to generate power and involves an investment of Rs 12,000 to Rs 13,000 crore. It would require an area of about 628 ha, which includes 60 ha for residential purposes.
In early 2010, a high-level committee comprising NPCIL engineers had visited three villages – Gorakhpur, Kumaharia and Kajalhedi – for site selection. The site was found suitable based on distance from human population and availability of land and water.
Since August 17, 2010, these farmers under the aegis of non-profits Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Parmanu Urja Virodhi Morcha have been asking the state government to stop construction of the Gorakhpur nuclear power plant on the fertile agricultural land. “We have been trying our best but to no avail. Three farmers Bhagu Ram, Ram Kumar Siwarch and Ishwar Singh have even lost their lives while protesting,” says Rajendar Sharma, president Parmanu Urja Virodhi Morcha.
Finally, in January this year they decided to file a public interest litigation in Punjab and Haryana High Court, following which notices were issued to the Department of Atomic Energy, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Haryana government and others seeking a reply on the contentions raised on the project. The high court has asked them to respond by February 2.
The petition was filed by Prithvi Singh and 59 residents of Gorakhpur village asking the judicial body to quash the land acquisition notices. Raising concerns about health and safety, the petitioners had asked the court to shift the project to some barren or less fertile land in other districts. They added that the proposed site is fertile land that gives two to three crops per year and the only source of livelihood for them.
Sharma says 30 villages in the Fatehabad district plan to hold a big protest on February 10 so that the Centre takes note of the situation. He alleges that no public hearing was held for the project and the farmers were slapped with land acquisition notices. “The government is offering us Rs 32 lakh per acre (0.4 ha), but we don’t want money. We want our land. Around 10,000 people sustain on this land,” says Sharma.
On January 16, several non-profits and organisations like the Socialist Front, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, wrote to the Haryana chief minister, asking him to withdraw land acquisition notices. They said new land acquisition bill is being considered by the Parliament and it would be presumptuous and premature for the state government to push through forceful land acquisition using the old Act.
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