For the first time in four years, agitating farmers in the Trans-Yamuna region of the district are mulling over talks with the administration over the proposed 1,980-MW Karchana power plant, which failed to kick-off. However, their conditions include application of Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill (LARB), 2013, provisions to the entire project.

If any agreement is reached, they are ready to call off protests, which recently completed 1,100 days. This development is in contrast to their earlier stand. As reported earlier by The Hindu , the farmers were in strict opposition to the power plant regardless of any improvement in the compensation offered to them.

A ‘mahapanchayat’ will be held soon and a decision about future action will be taken there, says Raj Bahadur Patel, president of the Punravas Kisan Kalyan Sahayata Samiti, which is leading the protests. Farmers from the Bhatta Parsaul movement in western Uttar Pradesh have recently visited the region and discussed the future action with Karchana’s farmers.

“There is new energy among the farmers ever since the Bill was passed. We just don’t want compensation, but also rehabilitation. Now we are seriously considering if we should give up our land for better rehabilitation.”

Despite the optimism among farmers, it is not clear whether the Bill would apply to the project as parts of the land were acquired earlier.

Conceived in 2007

The project was conceived in 2007 under the Bahujan Samaj Party government. Around 2,500 bighas of land was acquired from 2,286 farmers in eight villages — Devari, Kachari, Katka-Medhra, Dehli, Dohlipur, Bagesar, Kachara and Bhitar. However, the project, handed over to an undertaking of the Jaypee Group in 2009, could never take off due to consistent and often violent protests by the farmers over compensation. Last April, the Allahabad High Court allowed writ petitions of the farmers and stalled the project. The court order stipulated that farmers who had already taken the compensation should either return the money and take back the land or willingly hand over the land for the project.

Special Land Officer O.P Singh said there was no progress in the matter and the administration would wait for the court’s order before taking any step.

Mr. Singh could not clarify if the provisions of the LARB would apply (fully or in parts) to the project. “The Centre will pass the Act but it remains to be seen if the State agrees to apply it here. Administrative orders will be followed.”

Meanwhile, farmers allege that they are being harassed by motivated goons, intermediaries and officials. They claim that these methods are only to turn their peaceful protests violent.

The farmers are also living in fear for, eight FIRs have been lodged against hundreds of them during the initial protests, which had turned violent. Many letters to the State and the Centre have brought no relief.

“They want to harass us mentally. Keep us under pressure. The poor farmer is made to live in fear that he can be sent to jail any time. By invoking the same Sections that are used for Maoists, the State is trying to terrorise us,” says Mr. Patel.