The process of acquiring land in Mikir Bamuni Grant village of Nagaon district, Assam for an upcoming solar power project is mired in several illegalities and violations of policies, a fact-finding team which visited the site informed.
The fact-finding team from Delhi visited Mikir Bamuni and met with the local communities. They talked about the violation of laws and regulations from the nature of land appropriation to dispossession of people, and construction of a solar power plant through the use of repressive measures inflicted upon the community by the police and state authorities.
“Since last one year, the situation in Mikir Bamuni Grant village has been a cause for concern, with news of farmers protesting forceful takeover of their land for setting up a 15 megawatt (MW) solar power plant by Azure Power Forty Private Limited,” the fact-finding team said in a release.
“The solar power plant is being constructed in the midst of fertile agricultural land where the residue of last season’s crop could be seen. Not only the land, the environment and the wildlife are also threatened as the authorities came to know that elephants keep crossing through the village. Fresh elephant dung and elephant foot marks were also witnessed by the members,” the team added.
Prafulla Samantara, a member of the fact-finding team, pointed that the state must defend its people and not take the side of the company. The project appears to violate all the existing land laws that were earned through a long struggle of peasants over the sixties and seventies.
Another member Leo Saldanha pointed out that PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious proposal to generate up to 450 gigawatt (GW) of electricity based on renewables, particularly solar, has widespread ramifications to the future of India and also to India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The experience of villagers of Mikir Bamuni Grant village is indicative of the direct threat there is to Fundamental rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples, considering how Azure Power has been facilitated by Assam State government in promoting a 15 MW solar park in prime agricultural land flouting all constitutional and statutory safeguards.
“Evidence gathered by the fact-finding team revealed that the Assam Solar Policy 2018 has been drafted so as to advantage private ventures to grab land by any means. Besides, the January 2019 Notification of Revenue department exempts solar projects in particular from statutory mandate of complying with 2015 Land Reclassification Law,” the statement said.
The 2019 Assam Land Policy acknowledged how extensively land is degrading due to flooding appears to have been blatantly flouted in the case of Azure Power.
Bhargavi Rao, another member, raised the issues of violence against the local community by the police and said it is unacceptable. Stories of women who have been beaten, kicked and subjected to trauma needs documentation and has to be addressed by all concerned authorities.
The bulldozing of standing crops by Azure Power Company in December 2020 has taken away food security at the household level for these families and that will have serious implications on women and child health, the team pointed out.
“It is appalling that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and CDPQ are funding such a project that is in complete violation of all fundamental and human rights, and a project that has caused violence against women and children,” the statement added.