Ahmedabad : Congress today accused Essar Group of forcibly acquiring farmland and grazing fields in Gujarat’s Devbhomi Dwarka district in collusion with the BJP government in the state, a charge strongly denied by the private corporate entity.

“Essar Power Gujarat Ltd had sought 17,69,986 sq mt land to build a corridor for transporting coal stocks. The land included gauchar (grazing), land of private farmers and state-owned land in Dwarka Devbhomi,” the party’s national spokesperson, Shaktisinh Gohil, said at a press meet here.

“Initially, the government did not give away ‘gauchar’ land citing a Supreme Court order. However, the Revenue Department suggested an easy option to the industrial group — take the gauchar land and give the affected villagers the same amount of land elsewhere after developing it as gauchar,” he said.

Gohil alleged Essar and government officials ignored acquisition norms and started acquiring farmland coercively.

“Essar and government employees, with help from state machinery, raided three villages — Mota Manda, Nana Manda and Parodhiya — on the night of June 30 and started taking possession on the land with force.

“Those who claim to be ‘gau-bhakts’ (cow-worshippers) are now taking away the gauchar land. The prime minister, who came to power with the money of these industrial houses, has now started giving compensation to them,” he alleged.

Provisions of the UPA government-enacted Right to Fare Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act were ignored while deciding the award of land and farmers, too, had opposed the entire exercise, the Congress leader said.

The farmers were offered lower than ‘jantri’ price (land rate decided by government). Also, the activities of the group might pose a threat to the local environment (air and water pollution), Gohil said, and demanded a CBI or a court-monitored probe into the entire land acquisition issue.

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