Locals in Sarguja, Chhattisgarh, protest proposed thermal plant

By Rajendra Mohanty
Published: Thursday 31 May 2007

entry of government officials in Chandan Nagar in Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh has been banned with effect from May 1, 2007. This comes after series of long-standing protests by people against a proposed 1,000-mw thermal power plant in the district. iffco Chhattisgarh Power Limited (icpl) is a joint venture between Indian Farmers Fertilser Co-operative Limited (iffco) and Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board (cseb). iffco signed the tripartite agreement with Chhattisgarh government and cseb on November 3, 2005, and according to the deal, iffco would be the majority shareholder (74 per cent).

icpl needs 750 hectares (ha) for setting up the power station, out of which 440 ha are to be acquired from local people and the remaining (310 ha) would come from the government. The private land is to be acquired from Prem Nagar, Chandan Nagar, Raghunathpur, Abhaypur and Namnar. In this process, iffco officials insist that only 90 houses would be affected. But the local people, mostly tribals, have a different story to tell. They are busy organising mass demonstrations and rallies to express their anger against land acquisition, which is yet to begin.

"We are not going to give our land for the plant," says Kalam Sai, a tribal resident of Chandan Nagar. Sai says land is the main source of income for his family. Besides, the absence of an assurance from icpl for suitable land in return has made him and other villagers even more resolute. They say that they will not give up their land till they are given a 'land-for-land' deal by icpl. Their protests have even turned violent.

On March 14, 2007, nine staff members of a Bhubaneswar-based company Sway-In Associate Engineering (siae) were beaten by villagers of Chandan Nagar when siae staff was conducting a water availability survey in the area. The villagers suspected them of conducting land survey for acquisition by icpl. The terrified officials were rescued hours later by police. Although cases have been booked, given the solidarity of people, the police is yet to arrest anyone.

S R Maurya, manager, power, icpl, however, says water stability survey was conducted to ascertain the water table under the ground as well as in the river so that proper steps could be taken to ensure sufficient water availability even after the plant comes up. Besides, he assures of the "best-possible" rehabilitation and resettlement (r&r) package for farmers and says that compensation and r&r package is with the state government for its consideration. But the villagers of course are not listening.

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