A friend sadly says, “the plight of the masses being displaced from their homes, and their fears about rehabilitation are often disregarded in cases involving land acquisitions for development”. The anxieties revolve, rightly so, around the probable threats to the environment and the subsequent benefits/harms following the establishment of a developmental project. But the question about the masses is often overlooked. The state silences their voices, and civil society is preoccupied with its own agendas. Despite the harshness of their situation, they collectivise and protest against the unjust regimes, time and again. The case of Pinnapuram and Gumitam Tanda of Andhra Pradesh is no different.
It is not unknown that Andhra Pradesh has been facing a severe power shortage for a while now. In an attempt to emerge out of this crisis, the state government has encouraged the setting up of various power plants. Integrated Renewable Energy Project (IREP) being constructed in Pinnapuram (Nandyal dist.) is being touted as the world’s first & largest gigawatt scale integrated project. The estimated worth of this project, being steered forward by Greenko Group, is around INR 25,000 crores. “Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP) approved the project with 1000 MW Solar, 550 MW Wind & 1200 MW of Standalone Pumped Storage capacities” (Greenko Group). These details are essential to understand the gigantic scale of this establishment.
Greenko Groups have acquired over 6000 acres of land in two villages: Pinnapuram and Gumitam Tanda. Andhra Pradesh Ryot Sangham (APRS), a farmers’ organisation associated with CPI(M), has worked closely with the farmers for the past few months. Com. K. Prabhakar Reddy, a senior activist and state vice-president of APRS, has informed that the Greenko Group has acquired approximately 5500 acres of land from Pinnapuram. The village is home to 450 families, most of whom belong to marginalised sections such as Boya and Valmiki.
|Type of Land||Pinnapuram|
|Patta Land||2000 acres|
|Forest Land (cultivated by the farmers)||1500 acres|
|Forest Land||2000 acres|
On the other hand, Gumitam Tanda is a predominantly Adivasi village where Greenko has acquired around 500 acres. Out of this, the company convinced the farmers to lease out 300 acres of land for merely INR 30,000/per annum for 5 years. Farmers have received compensation for 100 acres of land so far at the rate of INR 15 lacs per acre. Com. Ramakrishna, district secretary of APRS, has informed that the company instantly converted these lands into dumping yards by disposing of rocks, mud, and other waste material. The Adivasis have complained that they cannot identify their own lands anymore. They fear they might never recover the lands they leased out to Greenko anymore.
The ordeal of Pinnapuram farmers is different. Com. Ramakrishna has alleged that the state government, in an attempt to save themselves from the possible allegation of wronging Adivasis, gave a higher compensation to the farmers in Gumitam Tanda. In Pinnapuram, the payment arbitrarily varied from INR 7 lacs to INR 11 lacs. And even this meagre amount has not yet been disbursed to all farmers.
Furthermore, this compensation was only given to those with Patta land. Farmers, who have been cultivating a portion of the forest land for a long time for their subsistence, were denied any financial or otherwise help. Adding to their woes, the energy park requires the construction of a reservoir to generate hydel power. The building, which had begun, had to be halted after the residents of Pinnapuram complained about the falling of huge rocks on their roofs following dynamite blasts to clear out land for the reservoir.
The leaders have even expressed their doubts regarding the entire land acquisition process. They said that the official paperwork for the project began in 2018, and the lands were acquired during the Covid-19 pandemic. By June 2022, 40% of the construction had been completed. Sadly, the swiftness in building infrastructure is absent when facilitating the farmers’ rehabilitation and resettlement.
For instance, the government is expected to organise a Gram Sabha, inform the farmers and village residents of the pros and cons of the project, and then decide a fair price for their land based on their suggestions. But in the case of Pinnapuram and Gumitam Tanda, the local MLA of YSRCP, Katasani Ram Bhupal Reddy, has not followed the proper protocol at all. His assistants organised a dinner party for the village residents and later claimed it to be a Gram Sabha. Additionally, he is also accused of embezzling the compensation amount. When various activists tried to educate farmers of the injustice being meted out to them, the MLA and his men built a counter-narrative vilifying the activists as advocating anti-development.
The farmers of Pinnapuram along with APRS registered their dissatisfaction initially at the MRO office in July 2022. They protested for a second time when the MLA visited their village. Fearing the growing resistance, the Andhra Pradesh government resorted to confinement of the entire village. Com. Prabhakar Reddy narrated that police pickets were placed on the only road to Pinnapuram, disallowing anyone to even step inside and speak to the farmers. The barricading worsened when APRS gave a protest call, and the police forcefully stopped villagers from leaving their village. As of now, approximately 30 people have FIRs lodged against them.
The cultivators and APRS have been demanding fair and equal compensation for all, with strict adherence to Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Some of the demands are that each farmer must get an amount equivalent to quadruple the market rate per acre of land (which is more than INR 20 lacs per acre). Additionally, the government and the company are required to provide livelihood opportunities to every family, and all the farm labourers. They lost their means of subsistence due to the project, and are on the brink of starvation and unemployment.
Com. Ramakrishna, recounted the words of an old farmer from Gumitam Tanda who said “Who can do anything about all of this? Nobody can do anything”. Com. Prabhakar Reddy said that “the state government has come to a point where it believes it can confine an entire village. But the participation of Pinnapuram farmers, mainly women, gives us hope”.
The locals fear that the farmers who have now lost their livelihood would resort to drinking and gambling, ultimately losing the entire compensation amount. Some report that many farmers have already started indulging in these activities in the absence of any productive work. The state government has not officially responded to the alarming situation in Pinnapuram. As days go by, the gigantic structures of the energy park keep growing, while the people and their land shrink.