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The Chhattisgarh government suffered a major blow on the industrialisation front as the state’s high court at Bilaspur annulled the acquisition of farmland for four power companies proposed in the Raigarh and Champa-Janjgir districts.

Talking to IANS Wednesday, lawyer for the affected farmers Sanjay Kumar said: “The Chhattisgarh High Court Tuesday annulled the acquisition of thousands of acres of fertile land in the Raigarh and Champa-Janjgir districts which had been forcibly taken from farmers for four power plants proposed to be set up in the two districts. Terming the state government’s act as arbitrary, the high court also slapped a fine of Rs.5,000 in each case which will be given to the petitioners as case expenditure.”

The single bench of Justice Prashant Mishra, in its order delivered Tuesday, said acquisition of farmers’ fertile land by the state government for private sector power companies is by no means an act in favour of public welfare. Besides, land acquisition rules have also not been followed during the acquisition process, the court observed.

Notably, four power companies – SKS Ispat & Power, VISA Power, K.S.K. Mahanadi and Moser Baer – have proposed to set up their power plants in Raigarh and Champa-Janjgir districts, 200 km north of state capital Raipur. The state government, which promised land to power companies, acquired thousands of acres of land in the two districts at very nominal prices and also did not follow land acquisition rules. Officials involved in this task allegedly tampered with land records also.

Challenging the acquisition of their land, 56 farmers of Siladehi village and six of Birra village under Champa-Janjgir district and 40 farmers of Vijkot village, six each of Dumarpali and Devri Villages and two of Latia village of Raigarh district had filed cases in the Chhattisgarh High Court on which, the final hearing was being held for the last one-and-half months.

The farmers, in their complaint, had accused the state government of acting like an agent of these power companies and also cited Supreme Court decisions which termed the acquisition of fertile land for industrialisation as illegal.

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