Three police posts are stationed at the table-top mountain, the site for the Jaitapur nuclear plant, where locals have been protesting for about five years now.
Beyond the site, fear stalks residents of the neighbouring villages of Madban, Mithgavane and Nate, where villagers say they are routinely questioned and even picked up at times for protesting against the proposed 10,000 MW nuclear plant .
Madban village, where the main plant will come up, is the epicentre of the protest and intensive police presence. As you approach the village from Ratnagiri, a police post confronts you.
The atmosphere of fear is palpable, so much so, this reporter approaching the village in a vehicle, almost sent villagers scurrying into the fields to hide, fearing it was a police jeep, they said. Their leader, Mr Pravin Gavankar, who has been fighting “forcible land acquisition,” was arrested by the police last week from his house at Madban.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) plans to set up a 10,000-MW nuclear-power plant based on the European Pressurised Reactor technology of France-based Areva at the village.
For five years, NPCIL has been holding negotiations with farmers of Madban and the neighbouring four villages for acquiring 938 hectares for the plant and a residential colony for the staff. In the last one year, the land was acquired allegedly without the consent of the land owners, under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
For barren land, farmers were offered Rs 53,000 to Rs 1.05 lakh an acre, while for grazing land, Rs 1.20 lakh to Rs 4.22 lakh. For good quality land that could bear paddy and had fruit-bearing trees, Rs 1.80 lakh to Rs 6.34 lakh was offered.
Of the 2,335 land owners, only about 100 have accepted their compensation cheques from NPCIL.
NPCIL’s Project Director, Mr C. B. Jain, told Business Line that preliminary work is going on at the site and no new negotiations have been held with villagers since the January 18 meeting called by the Chief Minister.
“For the last five years, we have been resisting plans of NPCIL of setting up a nuclear plant in our village. We made attempts to rescue our land from their clutches but now, it looks like a lost battle, laments Prasad Gavankar, farmer of the Madban village.
Prasad Gavankar, father of three school-going children, has lost 10 acres that provided him 1,500 kg rice every year.
“Villagers who have been resisting the plant are implicated in false cases by the police; there is an element of insecurity among people,” said Sandesh Chavan a local villager.
Police officers from Nate police station did not want to comment, saying only the Superintendent of Police could comment on the matter.
Some names in the article have been changed to protect their identity.