May 23, 2016
When India’s state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) established a power project four decades ago, the city of Singrauli began its journey to become “India’s Energy Capital” and also played witness to the displacement of thousands of people.
During that time, the World Bank provided financial support to the government of India to build this power project, the beginning of what would soon become an infestation of power projects in the region. This inundation of dirty coal projects has, over the decades, ultimately displaced around 300,000 people, many of whom have faced multiple displacements over the last 35 years. Some of them have even been displaced up to four times, but neither the state government nor the Indian central government has paid any attention to their struggle.
People who lost their land during the NTPC Singrauli Power Project in 1977 are still struggling to get their rehabilitation land allotment.
One of these displaced people, Ram Shubhang Shukla, is taking a stand.
“I am tired of running after government officials to get my land allotted,” Shukla said. “I am a physically challenged person and in spite of that, I had to run from one office to the other but to no avail. I have lost all hope, and now after all this, I have been sitting in protest near Rajiv Gandhi Baazar since January 19, 2016. I have been forced to sit in protest.”
Ram Shubhang Shukla has been given 1,200 rupees — the equivalent of less than $18 U.S. dollars — as compensation for his house, but he was not allotted any plot for the land he lost. Even after repeated reminders to officials, all Ram Shubhang has received is false assurances. He further stated that his brother and father have received plots of land but he has not.
A number of displaced families have been allotted land, but more often than not, those lands are already occupied by other people. After hearing about Ram Shubhang sitting in protest to get his land, a number of people who similarly have had to fight for their land, people like Jaggnath Giri from Kota, have joined him in protest.
It is clear that Ram Shubhang Shukla is not alone in his fight, but Singrauli still continues to displace hard-working people in the name of coal. Some have failed to raise their voice, and some, like Ram Shubhang , are still continuing to fight the system for their rights.
Ram Shubhang says that he met administrative officials responsible for the power projects — Mr. Gautum Singh Bhati, section officer Y. K. Chaturvedi, and many other officials — but to no avail.
Ram Shubhang calls on the Madhya Pradesh state government and Indian central government to follow through on their failed promises and allot him and all the other people who have been wrongfully displaced their resettlement land. He also calls on the World Bank, the financer of the NTPC project, to investigate the situation and pressure the government to follow through on their broken promises.
Ram Shubhang Shukla had to give up his protest after 63 days due to ill health. Neither the state government nor central government has taken any step toward fulfilling his legitimate demands.
“I have not taken back my demands or protest,” Shukla said. “Due to my ill health and extremely harsh summer (with temperatures soaring to 49 degrees Celsius or ~120 degrees Fahrenheit), I cannot sit in protest since I don’t want to give my family a tough time. I will sit again in protest as soon as i feel a little better and will continue to demand for my rights.”
Image Source: Joe Athialy
Rajesh Kumar is a Research Associate for Bank Information Center, South Asia.