Power plant land acquisition: Farmers set up 'protest pyres'

To protest land acquisition for Welspun Energy Madhya Pradesh Limited's (WEMPL) proposed thermal power plant in Katni district, farmers in two villages have set up funeral pyres on their fields and threatened to set themselves on fire in case of any coercion.

"Nearly all farmers of Bujbuja and Dokaria villages have set up funeral pyres in large numbers on their lands to protest the acquisition of land for the WEMPL plant and have warned officials that if they force them to vacate it then they would immolate themselves," Madhya Pradesh State Janata Dal United (JDU) President Govind Yadav said today.

Yadav said that JDU President Sharad Yadav has also arrived in Katni and would address a rally later in the day in support of the agitating farmers.

"Sharad Yadav has also turned down the request made by the district administration in the morning to give up the plan to address the protesters rally organised by the JDU in its strong belt," Govind said.

WEMPL has proposed to set up a Greenfield thermal power plant of 1980 MW (3X660MW) capacity at Bujbuja in Barhi tehsil of Katni district and had inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the state government on November 24, 2009, in this regard.

The government had initially agreed to earmark 1,900-2,000 acre land for the project but finally gave nearly 1,400 acre land out of which 800 acre is government land, while nearly 500-600 acre is private land that the company has to acquire from farmers, Govind said.

He said that nearly 350 farmers were losing their fertile land and therefore opposing it tooth and nail.

He said on a number of occasions earlier too, farmers have thwarted attempts made by the district administration to remove them from their fertile land.

"The farmers in affected villages have warned that they would immolate themselves if any attempt is made to forcibly remove them from their land," Superintendent of Police (SP) Katni, Rajesh Hingankar said.

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