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Ghosts who sign 

No place called home: Jeetlal Baiga lost his house to the Sasan mines project by Reliance Power in the Moher forest area of Singrauli district. Photo Courtesy: Greenpeace

No place called home: Jeetlal Baiga lost his house to the Sasan mines project by Reliance Power in the Moher forest area of Singrauli district. Photo Courtesy: Greenpeace
    

Singrauli, on the easternmost tip of Madhya Pradesh, is often called the energy capital of India. Currently, three thermal power plants here meet more than 20 per cent of India’s energy requirement, and more than a dozen super thermal power plants are coming up. The plants, including the existing ones, are expected to produce 35,000MW of power in the next few years. Singrauli has large coal deposits and abundant water, and it ranks ninth among 88 industrial areas in the country. But villagers here say that the power projects are depriving them of their livelihood.

Mahan forest in Singrauli is dense with sal, mahua and tendu trees, on which residents of 54 villages here depend for their livelhood. The forest is close to the Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve and is an important wildlife corridor. “They will cut more than five lakh trees and risk the lives of rare species to get coal for their power plants,” says Bechan Lal, secretary of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, which is fighting against the power projects.

The villagers will also lose their homes and land to the projects, some of which are promoted by Reliance, Hindalco, Jaiprakash, DB Power and Essar. In 2009, villagers burnt several trucks and property of the Essar group which was setting up a power plant in Bandhora. Many houses were razed to erect the plant and villagers were evicted after police firing. The agitators also point out that the Central Pollution Control Board has declared Singrauli as one of the most critically polluted areas.

But, how did panchayats clear the projects? Under the new panchayati raj system, it is mandatory for every panchayat to call a gram sabha before taking any major decision. Every resident of a village is a member of the gram sabha and has voting rights. In order to get environmental clearance, the power companies must get a no objection certificate from the displaced villagers. It has been found that the signatures and thumb impressions of villagers have been forged to obtain quick clearance from the government.

Take, for instance, the Essar-Hindalco joint venture in Mahan forest. Two years ago, the government allocated 1,182 hectares for the 1,850MW project costing Rs50,000 million. The project needed environment clearance for digging out coal from the mines, which are located around 14 villages in the Mahan forest area. In one of the villages that accorded the no-objection certificate, the entire gram sabha proceeding was fraudulent. “In the gram sabha held on March 6, 2013, in Amelia village, the district administration, with the support of Essar employees, obtained signatures of 1,125 residents even though it was attended by just 184 people,” says Akshaya Gupta, a social activist. Based on the certificate given by the village, the Union government decided to go ahead with the clearance.

“With such low attendance, the gram sabha could not have cleared the project. So the company and the local administration forged signatures and thumb impressions of villagers who were not present,” says Kripa Yadav of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, which was formed at the behest of Greenpeace. (NGOs like Greenpeace were recently in the news after the Intelligence Bureau, in a report, said they were working under foreign guidance to stall industrial progress in India.)

When a copy of the Amelia gram sabha resolution was obtained through RTI filed by an activist, it was revealed that 13 of the people who were ‘present’ at the meeting had died years ago and another person was serving life imprisonment. Apparently, the project had found support among ghosts. One ghost was that of Hansalal Khairwar. “It was all a forged exercise. They did not even spare my dead brother,” says Lalman Singh Khairwar, his younger brother. Villager Ramadheer Saket’s parents died long ago, but as per the gram sabha record, they were present to sign the panchayat register. Same is the case with Karkuliya Yadav, Dasmatia Jaiswal and Ramjit Panika. Shivkumar Saket is serving life imprisonment for murder but his name, too, figures on the list.

The gram sabha’s permission was necessary because the Union ministry of forest and environment had granted stage I clearance to the Essar-Hindalco project in 2012 with 36 conditions. The main condition was the implementation of Forest Rights Act. The project courted controversy owing to the forged gram sabha certificate. Former Union tribal affairs minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo  wrote a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan regarding violation of rights in Mahan.

Displacement has become a way of life for Singrauli villagers. In 1952, the villagers were relocated for a hydel project in Rihand dam. They were resettled on the northern edge of the dam. But they were again displaced in 1965, when Northern Coalfields Ltd started mining there. Again in 1980, they were forced to leave when National Thermal Power Corporation started its thermal power project in the area. Badri Prasad, a CPI(M) activist who is fighting for the rights of adivasis, says, “People in villages of Singrauli have paid the price of development several times and continue to suffer from that. Every second corporate wants to set up a power plant and dig coal here.”

Though people migrated to new areas within the district, they had to again move out because of Essar’s power plant and later Reliance’s ultra mega power plant, he says.

Rihand dam is no longer used for irrigation and hydel power. It is  being used only for cooling water for thermal power generation and as a sink for absorbing hazardous and toxic wastes from the power stations.

Some 250km west of Singrauli, two villages of Katni district¯Bujbuja and Dokaria¯underwent a similar fraud. Here, a private company is planning to set up a thermal power station. The district administration acquired 237.22 hectares in Bujbuja and Dokaria by allegedly faking a gram sabha. “They sat with the voter list and forged signatures of the villagers. They also signed for 21 people who were already dead,” says Durga Patel, former sarpanch of Bujbuja. Ironically, his signature, too, is on the list.

Kamlesh Patel’s father died in 1995 but his signature is on the list of supporters. Lachhu Kurmi’s father, Dhanpat Kurmi, has been missing since 1992. He had gone to participate in the Ram janmabhoomi movement and never came back. His signature also appears on the list. Two other ghost signatories are Mahadev Kurmi and Brijlal Patel. Their children are now running from pillar to post saying they never agreed to sell the land, which is their only bread and butter.

Twenty farmers from Bujbuja and Dokaria sat on a unique protest in November 2012. They sat on funeral pyres, with kerosene and match sticks. Since their protests have fallen on deaf ears, the villagers have now approached the Jabalpur High Court.


Power centre

NTPC Ltd
Capacity: 500MW 
Status: Planning

Sasan Power Ltd (acquired by Reliance Power)
Capacity: 3,960MW
Status: Complete

Chitrangi Power Pvt Ltd (Subsidiary of Reliance Power)
Capacity: 5,940MW
Status: Implementation

Essar Power Ltd
Capacity: 2,400MW
Status: Implementation

Suryachakra Global Enviro Power Ltd
Capacity: 1,050MW
Status: Planning

Indraprastha Power Corp Ltd
Capacity: 2,000MW
Status: Planning

DB Power Ltd
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: Implementation

SM Infra Power Pvt Ltd
Capacity: 660MW
Status: Planning
Singrauli


MP Power Generating Co Ltd
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: Planning

MP Power Generating Co Ltd
Capacity: 1,600MW
Status: Implementation

JK Lakshmi
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: Planning

NHDC Ltd
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: ??
Khandwa


Welspun Syntex Ltd
Capacity: 1,980MW
Status: Planning

KVK Energy and Infrastructure Pvt Ltd
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: Planning
Katni


Jaiprakash Associates Ltd
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: Implementation

MP State Mining Corp Ltd
Capacity: 660MW 
Status: Planning

ACB (India) Ltd
Capacity: 1,200MW
Status: Implementation

Suryachakra Global Enviro Power Ltd
Capacity: 1,320MW
Status: Planning

Source: thermalpower.industry-focus.net

http://week.manoramaonline.com/cgi-bin/MMOnline.dll/portal/ep/theWeekContent.do?programId=10350679&contentId=17439295#

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