Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday reacted sharply to the torching of a passenger train by a mob of villagers in Aurangabad district, who were protesting against alleged non-payment of adequate compensation for land acquired for the 3,300-MW Nabinagar thermal power plant project.
“I have asked for a full report on the incident. The only thing left to be done now is to verify the records again, though as per reports most of the land in that region is government land and no compensation is paid for acquiring government land,” said Mr. Kumar, speaking to reporters after the Chief Minister's Janata Durbar.
Condemning the act of arson, Mr. Kumar stated that “while citizens had every right to make their case heard, they could not be permitted to damage public property in such an anarchic fashion.”
Stating that it was a government project, he pointed out that the State was in dire need of electricity. “In case the project fails to take off, it will be a setback and Bihar and its people are bound to lose as a result.”
The villagers on Saturday had stalled work on the project, demanding reassessment of arable land for compensation.
However, the Chief Minister clarified that the furore was being caused by residents from only a couple of villages, who were clamouring for more compensation.
“Some of the villagers had effected transactions even after the land had been taken over by the government. This has led to some people agitating for higher compensation rates,” Mr. Kumar noted. The Aurangabad District Collector had already repudiated such transactions and brought a civil suit against such people.
“Compensation is never given for government land,” Mr. Kumar said. “Say if the floor rate is Rs.100 per acre of private land being acquired, the State government will give a compensation of Rs.240 per acre,” he said, implying that most of the villagers in the area had been adequately compensated for and the process was going on in other cases.
The coal-based thermal power project, a joint venture of the Bihar government and the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), aims to alleviate the State's ever-surging power woes.
The plant is to be set up on 2,832 acres and would have three units of 660 MW each to be built in the first phase at a cost exceeding Rs. 12,700 crore. As per NTPC sources, 1,871 acres of private land had been acquired only on paper.
The demonstration had already delayed work for three days in an electricity-strapped Bihar, Mr. Kumar said.
Keywords: Bihar train-torching incident