The farmers will decide on the future course of action at mahapanchayat today

Farmers in the Trans-Yamuna region of this district are finally set to take a decision on the construction of the proposed 1980-MW Karchana power plant, which has failed to kick-off due to a prolonged agitation.

The farmers told The Hindu that if any agreement is reached, they would stop their agitation, which would bring an end to the four-year long deadlock with the State.

The farmers would hold a mahapanchayat on Friday and decide on the future course of action.

Critical to a power deficient Uttar Pradesh, 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 Jaypee Group in 2009, could never take off due to protests by farmers over compensation. Last April, the Allahabad High Court allowed the writ petitions of the farmers and stalled the project. The Court order stipulated that farmers who had already taken the compensation for their land should either return the money and take back the land or willingly hand over the land for the project.

As reported earlier by The Hindu the farmers have shown signs of negotiation after the coming of the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act (2013). They have stipulated that their compensation be improved and they be rehabilitated under the Land Bill. This development is in contrast to the earlier stand maintained by farmers, who vehemently opposed to the power plant regardless of any improvement in the compensation.

“We have hopes from the Land Act and if compensated and rehabilitated fairly, we can give up our lands,” said Raj Bahadur Patel, president of the Punarvas Kisan Kalyan Sahayata Samiti, which has led the protests. However, if no resolution is passed at the mahapanchayat, the agitation will be intensified, he added, threatening to take aggressive steps.

“We had been patient for long. We want our rights. The Samajwadi Party came to power and promised to solve our case. But nothing has happened. We support development but why won’t they abide by the High Court ruling and return our lands?” asked Mr. Patel.

This could lead to a new showdown between the farmers and the State. According to sources, the government has issued orders to the administration to complete all acquisition for the project by the end of this year. The State could also lay the foundation for the project by February.

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

Special Land Officer Arun Kumar welcomed the mahapanchayat but said no fresh decision was taken by the State. “I cannot comment on the legal points [of the Bill]. It is a matter of discussion,” he said on the possible application of the Land Bill to the project.

Mr. Kumar added: “Those who return the compensation will be given back their land. If they do not, it will be assumed that they are willingly giving up their land.”

However, Mr. Patel said the farmers were in no position to return the compensation and even if they were willing, they would do so only after the State compensates them for the losses occurred over the last four years.

They also want all the FIRs filed against hundreds of them to be quashed.