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Jeopardising Livelihoods through Inefficient Implementation

Land Acquisition in Punjab

Analysing a case of development-induced displacement through a survey of land dispossession in Punjab reveals how displacement for development projects adversely affects farmers economically, socially and culturally. Fertile land acquired for a thermal power plant remains unused, depriving villagers of their livelihoods as well as the benefits that could have accrued had the project materialised. Large-scale land acquisition for the establishment of thermal power plants causes irreversible changes in the lives of local communities that are deprived of their source of livelihood by land acquisition and also gives rise to other social, economic, political and ecological changes. To avert the crisis resulting from the acquisition of agricultural land for developmental purposes, “long-term livelihood opportunities” for dispossessed farmers should be rebuilt, as compensation acts as wealth, and not income, for agrarian societies.

To boost development, the Indian government has taken up several development projects for which it has to ­acquire agricultural land. Punjab has not been immune to this trend. In 2008, the Punjab government acquired 2,100 acres of land from four villages—Banawala, Peron, Talwandi Aklia and Raipur—of Mansa district in the Malwa region, for setting up the Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (TSPL).1 Banawala has a total land area of 2,900 acres, of which 1,450.4 acres of land were acquired, 512.6 acres were acquired from Peron, 110.5 acres from Raipur, and 26.5 acres from Talwandi Aklia. Finally, in September 2008, the Punjab government inaugurated the TSPL of 1,980 MW with three units having a capacity of 660 MW each in Banawala. Not far away from these villages, the Punjab government acquired 806 acres in Gobindpura village out of its total land area of 1,458 acres for the establishment of a proposed 1,320 MW thermal power plant of the Poena Power Company, a subsidiary of Indiabulls Infrastructure. Some portion of the land was acquired from other adjoining villages such as Phulleuwala Dod, Sirsiwala, Jalbahera and Bareta. However, this land remains unutilised so far as no thermal power plant has been constructed.

Farmers in these villages have lost more than half of their land. In this area, no other sector has been developed except agriculture. Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of this area because of their low educational status. It needs to be noted that land was acquired in these villages despite opposition from over 80% of the villagers, who were not in favour of a thermal power plant. The large-scale land acquisition for the thermal plant has adversely affected villagers since many of those whose land was acquired have no alternative means of livelihood. Additionally, it has given rise to severe social, economic, political and ecological consequences.

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Updated On : 27th Apr, 2020

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