Punjab – Reports of resistances to forced land acquisitions

August 25, 2011

by Narinder K. Jeet

IT IS WAR AGAINST THE PEOPLE

Last month, when the farm organisations were holding Dharnas at Mansa, Jalandhar & Amritsar on Gobindpura issue, Sh. Parkash Singh Badal CM Punjab invited them for talks. It was promised in preliminary discussion that no land shall be acquired in future for any project without the consent of its owner. The CM also promised to leave the dispute 166 acre land & Dalit houses at Gobindpura from the purview of acquisition, pay adequate compensation, ensure employment to at least one member of the families whose land has been acquired etc. But all this was empty talk. In the formal meeting held on 19th Sept, he backed out from all these commitments.

Farm organizations then decided to relaunch the struggle in the form of a march towards Gobindpura on 24 th September and started making preparations for it.

In order to prevent the march being organized by 17 organizations of farmers & Agri-labour of Punjab towards Gobindpura, a small village in Punjab, to get back the land and houses forcibly acquired by Punjab Govt for Poena Power Company’s Thermal Plant, a massive deployment of police & armed forces has been done. All roads & pathways leading to this village have been heavily barricaded. Bus service to the village has been discontinued.

As per police sources 6 SPs, 17 DSPs, 13 SHOs, 10 Inspectors, 55 ASIs, 1940 Constables & Head Constables & 85 lady police officials have been deployed under the personal command of Sh. Nirmal Singh Dhillon IGP Bathinda and Surinder Singh Parmar SSP Mansa. Besides mobilizing armed Jawans from IRB, PAP, Commando Battalions, the police has also deployed Water Cannons, Round Fire Launchers, Tear gas squads etc. While hectic parleys are on amongst various functionaries of the administration, the police is holding flag march in the villages to terrorize the people.

All this is being done to crush the peoples movement and to protect the interests of Poena Power Company, a subsidiary of India Bulls.

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PUDA & BDA HIRE PRIVATE GOONDAS TO TAKE FORCIBLE POSSESSION OF LAND

August 19, 2011

In order to break the resistance of farmers opposing forcible acquisition of their lands at Bathinda, the Punjab Urban Planning & Development Authority (PUDA) & Bathinda Development Authority (BDA) utilized the services of private goons, besides the police.

The land in question was being acquired for a housing project (Phase-4 & 5 of Model Town). The farmers had earlier moved Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh, against acquisition of their lands. In order to pre-empt any legal action in the matter, the authorities today swooped down, with a big contingent of police and private goonda gangs, to take possession of the lands. The farmers and their families naturally opposed it.

Media-persons too reached in full strength to cover the event, with their cameras & flash-guns. Finding it difficult for the police to act under the glare of media-cameras, the authorities fielded their hired goons led by one Happy, a contractor. He opened fire injuring Gurdas Singh, Cameraman of CNBE channel. Thereafter he and his men started thrashing Sh. Bobby, Senior Photographer of Dainik Jagran.

The most deplorable aspect of this incident is that it happened in the presence of Sh. Vikram Singh Bhatti, Asstt Supdt of Police, Sh. Vikramjeet Singh DSP and many other police and civil officials. When the media-persons reacted, the police let Happy and his associates to escape from the scene.

Incidentally, Happy is the favorite contractor of both Akali & Congress leaders. In 2009, office of Bibi Harsimrat Kaur MP was located in his house. In his another house, Punjab Congress Chief, Capt Amrinder Singh’s son Raninder Singh was residing.

The media-persons have demanded stringent action against the contractor Happy & his associates.

This incident shows that the ruling clique, their favorite contractors, land mafia, property dealers, police and the corrupt officials of development agencies like PUDA & BDA, have ganged up to forcibly divest the farmers of their lands. The hullabulla of “development” is just a smoke screen to conceal their ugly designs.

Lok Morcha Punjab strongly condemns this brutal attack on media persons and demands immediate registration of case against the guilty and thier arrests. It also demands that strict action be taken against all those PUDA & BDA officials, police officials etc., who were present on the scene but remained moot spectators to it.

Lok Morcha Punjab also demands that the lands of the protesting farmers should not be forcibly taken in possession and they should at least be given opportunity to exhaust all available legal remedies. In fact Lok Morcha Punjab is of the view that land should be purchased from the farmers only through negotiation and no coercive or compulsory acquisition be done.

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A MASSIVE HOMAGE TO MARTYR SURJIT HAMIDI RESOLVE TO RESIST FORCIBLE LAND ACQUISITION

A SHARDHANJLI SAMAGAM was held on 11th August, in memory of Surjit Singh Hamidi, a member of BKU (Ugrahan), who laid down his life, facing brutal lathi-charge by the police at village Kot Dunne on 2nd August 2011, while protesting against forcible acquisition of land of Gobindpura, at his native village Hamidi in Distt Sangrur of Punjab.

On the call of BKU Ugrahan & BKU Dakonda, nearly 20,000 farmers, agri-labourers, employees and other sections of the people participated in it and paid homage to the martyr. It was addressed by the leaders of all 17 organizations, involved in this struggle.

Despite severe restrictions and police barricades, a large number of people from Gobindpura village also participated. An interesting feature of this programme was that most of the Gobindpura farmers, who had accepted the compensation cheques in respect of their acquired land too came and demanded cancellation of notification acquiring 880 acres of land for Indiabulls power plant, thus belying the claim of Akali Dal Badal leaders that the farmers have consented the acquisition of their lands .

The participants vowed to fight decisively against forcible land acquisition and hold massive Dharna in front of the office of D.C. Mansa from 22.8.2011, by the people of Malwa region. Simultaneously in Majha & Doaba region, the farmers’ and Khet Mazdoor organizations shall hold dharna in front of the offices of their respective Deputy Commissioners.

Punjab Govt has acquired 806 Acres of land of Gobindpura village, (which has a total of 1458 acre land) for a private sector thermal power plant, leaving behind just 652 acres. Even out of this 652 acres, 140 acres have lost canal water irrigation facility, and access from either side. Gobindpura is a small village in Mansa Districts of Punjab having a population of about 2500, out of which 40 percent belong to Scheduled Caste agricultural laborers and Backward Classes. Although Punjab Govt has declared that lands are not to be acquired without the farmers’ consent and multi-crop yielding lands are not to be acquired at all, but the entire land acquired at Gobindpura is irrigated, fertile and multi-crop yielding. More than 90 percent of the farmers are unwilling to give their lands. With this acquisition, 62 families of the village have become landless. Another 123 families have been left with very small holdings.

Besides the farmers, families of 14 Dalit agricultural laborers have also been adversely affected. The houses in which they were living for the last many decades have been acquired for this project, rendering them homeless. No compensation has been paid to them as the land on which their houses were constructed was not in their name.Compensation ranging from Rs. 23.23 lakhs to Rs.23.77 lakh per acre, including displacement allowances and no litigation incentive etc has been announced, while before the issue of 1st notification in October 2010, the prevailing price of un-irrigated (Barani) land in this village was Rs. 11 lakhs/acre and Rs. 15 lakhs per acre for irrigated land. There is no provision for providing employment to the project affected families in the Rehabilitation Policy. In fact the Govt has not announced any Relief & Rehabilitation policy for these people.

A few influential Akali leaders, property dealers, Banks, Agriculture Service Societies, Commission Agents, and Automobile and Arms dealers are the beneficiary of this project and the land acquisition. The Banks, Agriculture Service Societies and Commission Agents have got their outstanding loans against the farmers recovered from the amount of compensation paid to them. To induce the farmers to accept compensation cheques, the administration used all possible tactics, including grant of Arms Licence. A large number of fire-arm licences were issued in the village, in a short span of a few weeks.

Establishing of six thermal power plants in a radius of 50-60 Kms of Bathinda, has raised environmental concerns also, due to wide prevalence of cancer in the region. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s own wife, Smt Surinder Kaur Badal also died of cancer, although more than Rs.4 crores were spent from State exchequer on her treatment in India and abroad. Thousands others are not so fortunate. They are dying without getting any assistance from the state for treatment. In this Malwa region of Punjab, two thermal power plants already exist at Bathinda and Lehra Mohabbat in public sector. Now a 2640 MW thermal plant is under construction at Banawali (Mansa District). Besides Gobindpura, two more thermal plants are to come-up at Kotshamir 1320 MW (Bathinda Distt) and Gidderbaha 2640 MW (Mukatsar Distt). It will cause environmental catastrophe in the already heavily polluted region.

There have been corruption & nepotism in the process of award of this power project, without calling open tenders, to a little known Poena Power Company, a subsidiary of Indiabulls Infrastructure, having very little or no experience in power sector.Under the SAD-BJP regime in Punjab, corruption is rampant at all levels. There have been numerous instances where political bigwigs have got included themselves as partners in upcoming projects, without contributing anything or have got fat commissions.

The private firm setting up the project, Poena Power, is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Indiabulls Power. Foreign investors own 32.8 per cent of Indiabulls Power; another 58.8 per cent is held by Indiabulls Real Estate Ltd (IBREL). Foreign investors hold 51.6 per cent of IBREL. Thus the effective foreign shareholding in Indiabulls Power is 63 per cent.