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Thursday, June 23, 2011

GOVERNMENT-CORPORATE NEXUS: Chhattisgarh minister's son buys farmland for Videocon!

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Supriya Sharma, TNN | Jun 23, 2011, 01.44am IST.

JANJGIR-CHAMPA (CHHATTISGARH): Over the last few months, a "lal batti gaadi" has been spotted in the narrow lanes of Gaud village, carrying Sandeep Kanwar, who villagers identify as "mantri ka beta" (minister's son).

Sandeep is the son of Nankiram Kanwar,Chhattisgarh's home minister. He is also the chief of BJP's Anusuchit Janjaati Morcha or Scheduled Tribes Front, Korba.

In his latest avatar, Sandeep Kanwar has been appointed the public relations officer of Videocon group, which is setting up a 1200mw power plant in Gaud and neighbouring villages of Bhada, Gadapalli, Akaltari, Kewa. Gaud is in Janjgir-Champa, a small district in central Chhattisgarh, an extended landscape of irrigated plains, all set to become India's power hub. Thirty-six thermal power plants are coming up here, the largest cluster of power projects anywhere in the country.

The farmland required for these projects is 960 acres, out of which approval for 198 acres was given by the state government last December. But the buying began much before that and, in the course, a cocktail of corporate and political interests is profiting at the cost of the poor and powerless, with tribal farmers among the worst affected. Kanwar and Videocon are good examples of how the collusion works. Faced with protests, the state industries department was forced to grant a stay to the approval given to Videocon to buy land. And Kanwar himself acknowledges he has erred!

How did they operate? "Sandeep Kanwar comes, holds meetings, and tells us we should sell our land to the company," said Ram Charan, a farmer in Gaud. Since Kanwar travels as an official, often with local patwari, few see him as representing a private company. Villagers say his constant visits have intimidated several families into selling their land. 

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