Jindal Steel Power Limited (JSPL) forcibly acquired land of poor farmers and built a residential colony for its employees in Raigrah district, a Chhattisgarh court has held. The court has ordered the demolition of the colony and directed the company to return the land to its owners.

The order was passed by a Gharghoda local court on March 15, on a petition which was pending since 2009.

According to the petitioner, Haripriya Patel, JSPL’s Jindal Open Cast Coal Mines encroached upon their land in Dongamahua of Raigrah district in 2002 and built a colony on around 1.1 hectares of the land.

The court said it was proved that the JSPL company had encroached upon the land, depriving the original owners of it. The court also observed that the construction of the colony for the company’s employees was done without the permissionof the land owners or even informing them.

The court further observed that even after it was proved that JSPL company had encroached on farmers’ land, the company is still neither willing to buy the plot nor pay rent for it. “We were threatened by JSPL employees against taking on the mighty company. The local officials also discouraged us. My family has been struggling to survive for the past 10 years,” Haripriya’s daughter Kamla told DNA.

She said they had around 55 acres before the company started coal mining operations in the area. “Around 44 acres of our land was used in coal mining and another six acres was used for the colony,” she added.

“The court decision on the 1.1 hectares is just the first step. We will fight for implementation of this order and also for our remaining 44 acres,” she added.

According to local activists working for tribals and farmers in Raigarh, 55-year-old Kamla’s concerns are not false. “The way farmers and tribals have been robbed of their land in Raigarh is unparalleled. All this is done with the connivance of local administration which never heard the people’s complaints,” said Rajesh Tripathi, an activist who is fighting for farmers rights in the area.

“Similar orders have come in the past also, but they were never implemented and farmers never got their land back. Implementation of these orders is a tough fight. There are still so many other cases where companies like JSPL have forcibly acquired land of farmers and tribals,” Tripathi told DNA.

Courtesy: DNA

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