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Victimized By Development

By Goldy M. George

02 November, 2009
Countercurrents.org

“Jo Zameen Sarkari hai, Vo Zameen Hamari hai”, “Zameen apne aapki Nahi kiseke baapki”, these slogan were raised by people struggling to protect land from industrial house in Uchpinda village. We don’t want power plant in our village. Leave us alone, let us live in peace”, shouted Ramabai through the microphone in a large Kisan Sammelan organized by the villagers affected by the power plant on 25th October. Amina Bee, another person from Bandhapali said, “we want to live in peace and prosperity and this company will bring in more and more turmoil to our life”.

People were opposing the construction of a 1400 MW power plant by RKM Powergen Pvt. Ltd. a Chennai based corporate in Uchpinda village of Dabhra block in Janjgir district of Chhattisgarh. Within a span of nine years the state has faced with a number of controversies. Chhattisgarh the infant among other states is in the line of mega-developmental process, giving birth to more problems to the already deprived masses. Industrial economy is looked upon as the major economic model of growth and prosperity.

The government is ensuring a minimum lease area with secured land rights so that investors can safely commit large resources to mining projects. For surmounting the long-drawn out process of getting mineral-related leases, at the State level, quick processing of applications is given top priority. For major minerals under the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, where approvals are required from Government of India, the State Government is helps to get approvals quickly.

Recent Developments in Energy & Power Sector

According to a document of Government of India under the head “Consortium Lending” it is said that the Govt. of India envisions ‘Power for All’ by the year 2012 which requires an ambitious target of augmentation of generating capacity by 100000 MW. Like the other infrastructure projects, power projects are also highly capital intensive and have long gestation periods and a sizeable part of the investment is required to be made by the private sector. However, in the absence of uniformly acceptable approach, private sector projects are bound to face numerous hazards in obtaining finance like multiplicity of appraisal by participating institution, stipulation of different types of terms and conditions, different procedures/methodologies for disbursement and monitoring leading to delays in achieving financial closure and expeditious project implementation.

Power Finance Corporation (PFC), in association with LIC and four other Indian Banks established a Power Lenders’ Club (PLC) in August 2005 to provide single window financing solutions for clients in the private power production and to achieve expeditious financial closure. Subsequently, with the joining of HUDCO and eight other Indian Banks, PLC emerged as a 21 members strong Club. The Consortium approach offered by Club would provide a comprehensive solution to the debt requirements of these projects without the developer having to queue up before a number of lenders to arrange for the funds.

The PLC has adopted a Common Loan Approach Form and standardized the loan documents for the convenience of the borrowers and lenders. As on date, PFC with some of the other members of PLC has been associated with funding of three power projects viz. 350 MW Domestic Coal based project of RKM Power Gen in Chhattisgarh, 20 MW Bagasse based project by Viswanath Sugar in Karnataka and 820 MW Konaseema Gas Based power project in AP. Further, M/s. IFFCO Chhattisgarh Power Ltd have placed a letter of intent on PFC for providing project advisory, appraisal and loan syndication services for their 1000 MW power project to be set up in Chhattisgarh with estimated cost Rs.5400 crs. And debt component of Rs.3780 crs.

With the aim to give impetus to Consortium Lending Operations, particularly through the PLC, PFC has recently established a Consortium Lending Group (CLG) headed by an Executive Director. The CLG shall work towards harnessing the huge business potential offered by the Power Sector. CLG is interacting with the Banks/FIs to make an assessment regarding the cumulative exposure which could be taken by PLC members with a view to identify and firm up the various power projects to meet their funding requirements and to facilitate their expeditious financial closure.

The Chhattisgarh Scenario

Out of this ambitious 100000 MW power generation project, Chhattisgarh alone will produce nearly 50000 MW power. On 5th October the government announced that it has embarked on a plan to become a leading power producer in India, signing 61 deals with independent power producers (IPPs) to generate about 50000 MW of electricity. The coal-fired power projects will come up in northern Chhattisgarh, a coal-rich belt, on a total investment of around Rs.250000 crores. Of these proposals, at least 30000 MW would be added in the next seven years on an investment of Rs.150000 crores.

Several power producers have identified the project land. On its part, the state government has assured them of help in ensuring coal-linkages and requirements such as steady water supply. As per the agreement with the IPPs, the power producers will have to supply 7.5 percent of its total generation to the state government as cost of ‘energy charges’ – the actual fuel cost for power production – for the allotted coal blocks, or 5 percent of the power if they were given coal-linkages. It is also said that more private power producers had evinced interest in signing deals to set up plants in the state that boasts of an estimated 18-20 percent of India's coal reserves. State-owned power utility NTPC, formerly National Thermal Power Corp, signed an agreement in July ‘09 for setting up a 4000 MW coal-fired power plant on an outlay commitment of Rs.20000 crores. The project, which would need 30000 hectares, will have five 800 MW units and will come up in Raigarh district. Chhattisgarh, which currently produces 1923.85 MW of electricity, claims to be India's first power cut-free state. It implemented a scheme from Oct 2, 09 to provide free power to farmers who use irrigation pumps up to 5hp. The scheme will cost the state exchequer an estimated Rs.150 crores annually.

A Brief note on RKM

RKM Powergen Pvt. Ltd., a Chennai based company is a junior partner of Mudajaya Group Berhad as of today. On 11th June ‘07 this was announced by Mudajaya Group. The group owns 26% of stake of RKM Powergen including the 1200MW coal fired power project in Chhattisgarh. RKM powergen is also in the process of setting up a joint venture company known as East Coal Company Limited with an initial paid-up share capital of Rs. 20 million (2 crores).

On 13th May 2008 it was revealed by Mudajaya group that RKM Powergen Pvt. Ltd., the special purpose vehicle undertaking a coal fired 4 X 350 MW IPP Project in the State of Chhattisgarh has been granted a term loan facilities of 50 crores from PTC India Financial Services Limited to set up of 350 MW Coal Based Thermal Power Project. As of date, RKM has been granted a total term loans facilities of Rs. 11.4 billion (approximately 1141 crores). On 14th May 2009 Mudajaya Group announced that its associate company, R.K.M. Powergen Pvt. Ltd., had entered into a power purchase agreement with PTC India Ltd. for the supply of 700 MW round-the-clock for a period of 12 years from the commercial operation date of the second phase of the IPP project. Phase 2 of the IPP Project which consists of 3 X 360 MW, is expected to commence commercial operations by September 2011.

Glancing through the RKM’s MoU

On 3rd April 2006, the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board and Chennai based Messer's RKM Powergen Private Limited in the presence of Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh. As per the MoU, RKM Powergen Limited will invest Rs. 5500 crore for development of 1200 mw coal based thermal power plant and development of coal mines in the State. In the tripartite agreement, Principal Secretary of Energy Department Vivek Dhand (on behalf of the State Government), Secretary of Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board Manoj Dey (on behalf of CSEB) and Managing Director of the Company Dr. Andal Armugam (on behalf of RKM Powergen Limited) signed the M.O.U.

State is likely to gain Rs 70 crore from subsidized electricity of the project. Apart from this, State or its agency will have first right over purchase of 30 pc electricity of the project. Rates will be fixed by State Electricity Regulatory Commission. Special provisions have been included in the MoU for completion of project in stipulated time frame. RKM Powergen was to present an action plan within 60 days of signing the MoU and a feasibility report within six months. As per provisions of the new industrial policy of the State, company will have to engage locals in the industry. Company has agreed to fill up 90 pc unskilled and 50 pc skilled labourers from locals. One third administrative posts will also be filled by domiciles of the State. As per rehabilitation policy of the State, company will also provide all facilities to persons displaced by the project. Company will also ensure proper use of fly ash of the thermal plant.

Internal sources say that Chief Minister Dr. Singh has special interest in RKM’s project in Uchpinda project. His comparison of the power projects with the worship of goddess Durga is ridiculous and in fact it is in a way to ask people not to oppose these projects as these projects are at par with the goddess. It is also at par with Nehru’s statement of “temple of modern India” while inaugurating the Bhakra Nangal dam. These political champions believe that modern India should rely a lot on these kind of projects and for this if some people have to sacrifice their life then they should not hesitate for the larger “public good” of the nation. Ironically the MoU doesn’t speak anything about the affected/impacted people at large. The usage “local” is in an abstract form, which doesn’t specify about the engagement of the local people. There is no mention of providing permanent employment to the project affected people. Even whatever is said to be local is also going to be handled by the local politicians, mafia gangs, contractors, dalals, etc. There is no defined compensation package neither by the company nor by the government, which raises severe questions on the intensions of the company. Hence the question of land for land and house for house and other socio-economic and cultural aspects are not addressed in the rehabilitation

People’s Resistance in Uchpinda

Soon after the announcement of the power projects, an initial survey was initiated by the government in 2006-07. The question of power plant came into light when the process of land purchase (indirect acquisition) began in 2007-08. Last year on 26 April a one-day fasting was jointly called by Dalit Mukti Morcha (CMM), Chhattisgarh Mahila Jagriti Sanghatan (CMJS) and other organizations against the power plant. Nearly 2000 people participated in it. People expressed their fear and vowed not to give land for these industrial projects, as all industrial projects have only resulted in displacement and destruction. Six power plants have been proposed alone in Dabhra region.

On 30th April, the collector, tehsildar and other revenue officials organized a public hearing at Uchpinda, in which nearly 4000 people attended and participated. People registered their protest against the industry. The hearing continued for an hour and when the collector didn't let anyone speak it came to a reactionary end. Finally when the people got angry the officials escaped and announced the public hearing as nullified. Yet the company got the Environmental Impact Assessment clearance from the MoEF in August 08.

Soon after this, the government and the company engaged to grab land. Instead of doing it directly, they groomed a fully fledged clique of dalals (touts) from among the villagers who turned to be negotiators on behalf of the company. They through their alluring tactics, corrupt practices have been carving off the land little by little in favour of the industrial houses. Right now no land is acquired by the government.

Democratic Resistance versus State repression

Between June and August the company officials began patrolling the village and unloaded some construction material. Local people blocked the company officials and vehicles in the village. In between a fake case of beating up a police officer was registered against 25 of them and they were dragged into the courts seeking legal remedies. In August the company officials again scouted the village to start construction work. On 1st September the company authorities with nearly 100 police and administrative officials reached the village for bhumipoojan. There were nearly 1000 people who registered a strong protest and blocked the move. The police called people individually and threatening them. The plan of starting the work was perfected planned as 25 leaders seeking bail in the fake case were to appear before the SDM in Dabhra and the same time was fixed for the company to start their work. The SDM and other police officials remained in the village till 5.30 while the people were waiting for their bail order since morning. They didn’t get the bail that day till 7.30 in the evening.

Next day a fresh deployment of nearly 50 police personnel came in. Police, administration and company officials were engaged in threatening tactics, took video records of individuals who spoke against the company at the personal whims of police, SDM and company officials. On the 3rd September a similar situation was subverted by the people. On 4th September again the company came up with many more labourers and more police including officers like DSP, SDO (P) and TIs from nearby police stations. With a lot of power and pressure, the company started the work.

On 4th October people from other villages as Ghivra, Dhomnipali, Kekrabhat, and Bandapali came out in support of the people and blocked the company vehicles from entering the village. In between Uchpinda people passed a resolution in their panchayat gram sabha (Bandhapali panchayat) against the creation of the plant. As the activities of the company went on, the people of the village had come to Raipur to attend a mass rally and public meeting on 6th October organized by Vistapan Mukti Manch. In the rally and public meeting they raised their strong discontent against RKM Powergen too.

On 12th the company’s contractor engaged in the boundary wall construction on private land belonging to Adivasis of Ghivra village, leading to a heated argument between the contractor’s labourers and villagers. People from Uchpinda, Kekrabhat, Bandhapali, Dhomnipali, Bandhapali and Kanhakot also came in support of people of Ghivra. There was a scuffle between the labourers and village people in which many women were injured. The contractor informed the company officials, who file a fake complaint with Dabhra police station. Following this, the police came and arrested Kesav Siddar. He was charge u/s 307, 394 of Indian Penal Code.

Raged by arrest nearly 300 people went to the police station in the evening demanded for the release of Kesav Siddar or arrest all. The police brutally lathicharged everyone assembled. On 13th another person Reshamlal Banjare was picked up by the police. Police file a case against 21 persons u/s 147, 148, 149, 395, 452,427, 323, 506 and another 200 others u/s 147, 148,149, 307, 333, 294, 323, 506. One of the leading newspaper Deshbandhu news says that the case is again 350 persons. In the case the company has claimed the breakage of property worth 16 lakhs. The following day there was heavy deployment of forces which staged a flag march in the village. This spread a region of terror and fear among the people who were confined to their houses.

Two days off as the police were on the search for them, the people came out openly on the streets and blocked the Sakti-Kharsia road for 28 hours from 4 pm in the evening on 16th evening till 8 pm on 17th October. The blockade was called off due to Diwali. On 21st October a delegation of Visthapan Virodhi Manch met with the Governor Mr. Narsimhan apprised him of the various situation and submitted a memorandum with regards to several issues and concerns on displacement of people from several areas in Chhattisgarh. Uchpinda case was the one of the main issues in the entire discussion.

The Gravity of the Issue

Land acquisition was through any procedure mentioned under sections of Land Acquisition Act (LAA). All land was purchased. Now this is the biggest danger that people are faced with where the corporate groups itself got engage in buying land in the name of some benamis through dalals. This is exactly which is proposed in the amendments of LAA where the responsibility of the government to acquire land would be only 30%, which means the company should acquire or buy the remaining 70% land from the people.

Recently there were two public hearings of Sapose and of Bada Darga village. Both the hearing lasted hardly 15 minutes. Ironically these hearing weren't held in the village. In both the cases the hearing was conducted at a short notice of 2 or 3 days in Dabhra which is about 20-25 kms from the village. What happens in such cases is that the political dalals and land mafias group up and take the centre-stage and speak in favour of the company which is documented, remaining things are not even documented. This is what has happened in both the cases. The same strategy of buying land with benami landlordship is continued in all the cases.

People in these villages feel helpless since the company had bought the land under some pretext or other. Thanghan and Chuipali are two villages right on target now. This is only of one block in Janjgir. In all this is creating an army of easily disposable and unemployed people, throwing them off their land and livelihood forever amplifying the already existing state of poverty and victimization. This act of transforming land into a private commodity, forcing villagers to move from traditional occupations into a weakly regulated labor market and replacing traditional village economies by the market economy is in fact the process of land alienation and depeasantization.

For further information please feel free to contact

Goldy M. George, Dalit Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh

Email: goldymgeorge10@gmail.com
+91-98932-77910

 


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