Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another Nandigram in making in Rajasthan

"You can come and drop bombs on my village. Kill me," Bhanwar Singh, a 75-year-old farmer, thundered before government officials as his hands trembled violently. "That is the only way you can get my land!" Grandfathers wept. Children lay down on roads. Everyone else in the Rajasthan village angrily told the carloads of government officials that no one would give what they had come for: their farmland. Far removed from national attention, the next Nandigram is simmering in the border district of Barmer, Rajasthan.

The Rajasthan government has planned to build the state's largest power project in partnership with private firm Raj West Power Ltd in the district's Bhadres village. More than 20,000 acres of village land need to be acquired for the Rs. 5,000-crore, 1,000-megawatt project. Government officials began surveys this week to finalise compensation money for land acquisition — the last step in the process.

More than 60,000 people — and, more importantly, 250,000 livelihood-providing cattle — live across 29 villages in this area, and villagers are refusing to sell their land for any amount of money. They allege that the company, Raj West Power, is the real gainer, not the state or nation as the government argues, and certainly not the farmer. The company refutes this, saying the project will generate huge job opportunities for the local populace.

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