Sham industry: how Chhattisgarh's farmers were dispossessed of their land
The Chhattisgarh government claims to have made great strides in industrial development. But the farmers, who were supposed to be key stakeholders in this, have been left in the lurch.
Take the case of Raigarh. In this district, half a dozen companies have been allotted hundreds of acres of land. But the farmers from whom the land was taken have yet to receive full compensation. The farmers had been promised rehabilitation and employment opportunities in the industries that were to be set up, but they are yet to see any of this either. The reason? Not a brick has been laid for the proposed industrial projects.
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In 2007-08, 116.85 hectares of land was acquired for Singhal Steel. Work on the project has not started till date, leaving farmers of Patrapali and Siyarpali without any source of livelihood.
Visa Steel's factory was allocated 196. 87 hectares of land in Kotmar, Patrapali and adjoining areas. The project remains on paper.
The Bhojpur-Khamhar region was chosen for the establishment of a plant by AE Steel in 2005-06, and about 299 hectares of land was acquired for it. No work has been done yet.
In 2007-08, about 24 hectares of land was acquired for a power plant to be built by Mahavir Energy. The project has not taken off and the farmers have not been rehabilitated although some have received compensation.
In 2008-09, Salasar Steel & Power Ltd announced setting up of a plant in Cheraipani and Gerwani region. It was given 14.27 hectares of land, which lies vacant.
Together, various corporate groups now possess at least 700 hectares of land in Raigarh. They include big names like JSW Steel, Topworth and AE. A few of the companies have even closed down since they were allotted land, most notably Indus Agro.
Left to their fate
Apart from this, vast stretches of land in the district have been given to some mining companies. But none have started work even after intervention by the courts.
"According to the rules, the government must return the land to the farmers within a set time frame if the project for which it had been doesn't come up," says Rajesh Tripathi, a local social activist. "Why hasn't this been done?"
So, the disillusioned farmers have started raising their voice against the injustice done to them. They are demanding the return of their land. The protests have picked up over the past year or two.
The farmers are on solid legal ground: The Land Acquisition Act, 2013 clearly lays down that land taken for "industrial purposes" must be returned to the original owners if it remains unutilised for five years. The Chhattisgarh government, however, does not seem bothered to do its duty, even though the affected farmers have been turned into labourers. Most of them have received only a few thousand rupees of the promised compensation and the money has long been spent.
The local administration seems indifferent to their plight. "The law mandates that the acquired land be put in a land bank if the project fails to start within a specified period of time. The villagers have lodged their complaints. But the process of the return of land has not yet started," says Raigarh SDM Prakash Sarve.
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