Surya Pratap Reddy, a farmer at Momidi village in Chillakur mandal, was deeply disturbed on finding an HT tower erected on his three-acre agricultural land overnight without his prior consent.
When he went to register his protest with the officials of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), he found that it was the corporation’s contractor who did the installation. Mr. Reddy wanted to take the contractor to task but had to relent as a highly influential person asked him not to make an issue, hence he had to keep quiet. Besides he did not get any compensation from the PGCIL too as he was not aware of it. But in Lakshminarasimhapuram village, nearly Rs. 1 lakh per tower was said to have been paid to rich farmers while only Rs. 50,000 was paid to poor farmers after the villagers protested.
“PGCL officials should explain why no proper procedure is being followed in this. Thousands of farmers are incurring losses because of their activities,” said P. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of the Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations (CIFA). The problem is much severe in Nellore district with two dozen power generating stations set to come into operation in the next 5 to 10 years with a total capacity of 30,000 MW. Because of the Krishnapatnam Port alone, many thermal power stations are coming up within a short radius in Muthukur and Chillakur mandals. As a result of this, nearly 70,000 acres of farmers’ lands are going to be affected in Nellore district. Despite the huge task at hand, the officials have adopted a casual approach. PGCIL is acting arbitrarily causing immense loss to poor farmers, Mr. Chengal Reddy said.Stating that the PGCIL paid Rs. 3,254 crore income tax during 2011-12, Mr. Chengal Reddy said that the company was a business entity which should have followed due procedures like giving prior notice to farmers before laying HT towers. Instead, a contractor was engaged and he was entering the farmers’ lands unauthorisedly and laying the HT towers with the help of policemen. When this was taken to his notice, a senior people’s representative told an affected farmer to settle the matter with the contractor, Mr. Reddy lamented.
The CIFA had taken a serious view of this as lakhs of farmers would be affected as HT towers were being erected in violation of 2033 Electricity Act. It clearly states that such activities should not be carried out in farmers’ lands without giving prior notice. Moreover the compensation not being paid adequately, he added.