If Rahul Gandhi thinks he has set the right note for starting the agitation against land acquisition in Bhatta Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh just because the Supreme Court has ordered the return of the 156 hectares to the farmers in Greater Noida’s Shahberi village acquired by Mayawati government, then he has another think coming. The Mayawati government can be held responsible for selling land to real estate and infrastructure developers for Rs10,000 per sq metre after buying the land for the highest price of Rs850 per sq metre from farmers, but how does that change the paradigm when it comes to the land acquisition in Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district for the nuclear plant?
If you look at the way the Congress state government in Maharashtra has handled the Jaitapur land acquisition Mayawati looks like an angel in comparison. The nuclear plant planned in Jaitapur district has over five villages affected by the project. The state government’s initial impact report plaintively maintained that the land earmarked for the project was “barren”.
Over 968 hectares of land has been acquired, though the district of Jaitapur is famous for its ‘alphonso’ mangoes. People in Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane and Varliwada villages in Jaitapur have been agitating for the last four years against the project. Rahul Gandhi may not even want to join the Jaitapur debate because it is a pet project of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Singh had even put his job at stake to get the Indo-US nuclear deal signed against his party’s counsel.
Out of the Rs14.85 crore compensation set aside by the state government only a little over Rs1.5 crore has been disbursed as there are no takers for the project in the district. Of the 2,400 families affected by the land acquisition at Jaitapur just about 40 families have taken the measly compensation paid by the government and many of them have already told the news media that they are not happy with the offer.
Over 40,000 people will be affected by the plant of which 16,000 families are dependent on fishing. The present Congress government in Maharashtra should take cognizance of the Enron project of the 90s which had the same makings of bulldozing public opinion by sheer strength of corporate power. The Enron project was in the nearby Guhagar village in Ratnagiri.
The Uttar Pradesh government had changed the land use plan in greater Noida in less than 11 days after the land acquisition. The unholy haste with which Mayawati government changed the laws to pander to the land sharks tell a story of how state governments, be it Congress or the Bahujan Samaj Party, can be bought with consummate ease by the corporates with deep pockets.