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RIICO fails to cement projects

DNJAI32653 | 5/18/2012 | Author : Sowmya Sivakumar | WC :520

Agency’s plan to allot 3 cement companies land in Nawalgarh runs into agitating farmers

Money can’t buy love. And in rare instances — not even land. Plenty of troubles are brewing for three cement majors — Shree Cements, Chennai-based India Cements and Ultratech Cement (of Aditya Birla Group) in their land acquisition plans through the Rajasthan State Industrial Development Corporation (RIICO) for their ambitious projects in Nawalgarh tehsil in Jhunjhunu district. The total land requirement for these plants is 6,338 hectares (for a reference, the state’s largest SEZ Mahindra World City is only around 1,000 ha). Of this, RIICO started to acquire 1,816 ha — that’s about the size of 2,300 international football fields — but it remains stuck in various stages of acquisition as farmers in 10 villages are unyielding. “There is strong resistance from local groups, at forefront of which are political forces. Around `2 lakh a bigha is being offered to farmers, which is 10 times the DLC rate, but still they are not agreeing,” said sources in RIICO. RIICO figures attest to farmers’ opposition. Shree Cements deposited `27 crore as compensation to farmers for 142 hectares in Gotda village. But only `2.5 crore has been picked up by farmers so far. “What is not accepted will be deposited in court and we will take possession,” said a RIICO official. “It is not about the money. We have been protesting for over 600 days. They will have to kill us to take our land,” Shrichand Dunda, regional general secy, Rajasthan Bijli Kisan Union in Jhunjhunu said. “They have taken lands from SC/ST, temples, schools, wells, charagah and community land violating all laws. Those who sold out are now crying. This area has been declared dark zone. What will happen to the water situation in this region once these plants come up, with their huge water usage, noise levels, pollution and health problems?” asked Dunda. As per RIICO, an award of `119 crore for the second acquisition by Shree Cements of 573 ha for its mining operation has also been declared but the company hasn’t paid up, as the first acquisition remains incomplete. Similarly, `18 crore for 106 ha land for India Cements has not been paid. The largest acquisition is by Birla Group’s Ultratech Cements for 4,864 ha. of this, 1,000 ha was to be done through RIICO. Sources said `18 lakh a hectare has been fixed as compensation. To ease the situation, Ultratech has got permission to directly purchase land from the farmers for up to 300 ha. However, the law specifies the acquirer has to apply for conversion within a year of acquisition. Interestingly, mining department sources said the letters of intent (LoI) granted to the 3 firms were earlier cancelled by the government on the complaint of the then Nawalgarh MLA Pratibha Singh. However, companies got the LoIs reinstated through high court and were given further time for compliance which has three components — environmental clearance, NoC from farmers and keenness money. Only on this basis can the mining lease be issued. So far, none of the companies have been able to produce NoC. An extension till Sept 30, 2012 has been granted, sources said.

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