For the first time in four years, farmers in the Trans-Yamuna region of this district are mulling over a negotiation with the administration over the proposed 1980 MW Karchanna power plant, which failed to kick-off. However, their conditions revolve around the application of the provisions of the Land Acqusition and Rehabilitation Bill (2013) to the entire project.
If any agreement is reached, they are ready to call off their protests, which recently completed 1,100 days. This development is in contrast to the earlier stand maintained by farmers. As reported earlier by The Hindu, the farmers were in staunch opposition to the power plant regardless of any improvement in compensation offered to them.
A 'mahapanchayat' will be held soon and a decision about future action will be taken, says Raj Bahadur Patel, president of the Punravas Kisan Kalyan Sahayata Samiti, which has led the protests. Farmers from the Bhatta Parsaul movement in western UP recently visited the region and discussed a future point of action with Karchanna's farmers.
"There is a 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, however, it is not clear whether the Bill would apply to the project as parts of the land were acquired earlier.
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 consistent and often violent 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. 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 steps.
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 remains to be seen if the State agrees to apply it here. Administrative orders will be followed."
Mental harassment continues, allege farmers
Meanwhile, farmers say that they continue to be harassed by motivated goons, intermediaries and officials.
They believe these are methods to turn their peaceful protests violent. Farmers also live in fear of the eight FIRs lodged against hundreds of them during the initial protests, which had turned violent. Numerous letters to the State and 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 terrorize us," says Mr. Patel.
"Humlog videshi ban gaye. Tehsil mein jayenge toh koi kaam nahi hoga hamara (We are treated like outsiders. Officials refuse to do our work at the tehsil)," says Baijnath Yadav, 75, but shown as "dead" in official records of the old-age pension scheme.
"They termed me 'dead' because I am protesting against the power plant. I have been running around for 5-6 months to get it corrected. But nothing has worked so far," he rues. Dharamraj Nishad narrates a similar tale, so do a dozen others across the villages.