Investigation report prepared by civil rights group Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) alleged “human rights violations and a forced takeover of land in the village of Mikir Bamuni Grant for a 15-year solar power project. MW of Azure Power ”in Assam, saying,“ and the district administration, facilitated the illegal and unfair takeover of the land. “
Insisting that “the lands and forests of Assam belong to the indigenous and adivasi peoples of Assam and must be returned to them,” a DSG note on the occasion of the official release of the report indicates that the construction of the solar party was undertaken “With a flagrant abuse of the power of the police, employed to terrorize the local population in order to subdue them”, he asserts, the governor of Assam “turned out to be involved in the authorization illegal transfer of land to Azure ”.
For more than a year, the situation in Mikir Bamuni Grant village of Samaguri Revenue Circle, Nagaon, Assam has been a source of serious concern to indigenous peoples and farmers who are protesting against the forced takeover of their lands for the installation of 15 MW solar energy. factory by Azure Power Forty Private Ltd.
As no local elected representative of a district representative responded to their grievances, local communities appealed for help. In response, a Pan-Indian Investigation Committee (FFC) was formed by the Delhi Solidarity Group. Prafulla Samantara (recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, also known as the Green Nobel Prize) of Odisha, Leo Saldanha (Environment Support Group, Bangalore) and Bhargavi Rao (Environment Support Group, Bangalore and Center for Financial Accountability, New Delhi) and Amit Kumar (Delhi Solidarity Group), who was part of this FFC, visited Mikir Bamuni to meet with affected local communities, and also traveled to Nagaon to meet with district, police and tax officials from January 27 to 29, 2021.
Based on this visit, evidence-gathering and extensive research on the region, the Committee published: “The Anatomy of a Solar Land Grab – Report of a Committee to Investigate Human Rights Violations of man and the environmental and social impacts of 15 MW The solar power plant being created by Azure Power in the village of Mikir Bamuni Grant, Nagaon, Assam ”and the same was published today in the presence of local villagers and leaders of the ongoing movement against land grabbing.
The report establishes that Azure Power was aided by district authorities, tax officials and police in forcibly taking land cultivated by villagers, and in abject violation of legal orders, as well as laws and policies. The construction of the solar part was undertaken with a blatant abuse of police power, used to terrorize the local population into submission, including a variety of serious human rights violations.
Despite extensive media coverage in local dailies, no action has been taken against those responsible by the state government. Shockingly, the high office of His Excellency the Governor of Assam was involved in authorizing the illegal transfer of land to Azure.
The report further establishes that the solar power plant is being built on fertile farmland that has been cultivated for decades, and which was full of standing crops, and which was illegally destroyed by Azure. Local agricultural officials illegally and fraudulently argued that there had been no cultivation for over a decade, to justify the illegal transfer of land to Azure.
The FFC also discovered during 2 of its 3 days of visit to Mikir Bamuni, that the elephants were passing through the village, their passage was blocked by the solar power plant, which therefore constitutes an active elephant corridor and an ecologically sensitive region. .
Team member and leader of the National Alliance of Popular Movements, Prafulla Samantara underlined:
“The government of Assam, in particular the Nagaon District Administration, has played a crucial role in this capture of resources by companies dispossessing the indigenous and adivasi people of Mikir Bamuni of their lands and livelihoods.
“The actions taken by the police to aid in this forced takeover of land by Azure Power have resulted in a flagrant violation of the human rights of those who cultivate the land.” The government of Assam has served the interests of Azure Power at the expense of human rights, livelihoods and basic rights. villagers’ rights ”.
Amit Kumar, a Delhi-based researcher who has done extensive research on land and environmental laws relating to industrial corridors and mega infrastructure projects, highlights the law violations in this case.
“The Assam Tenancies (Temporary Settlement Areas) Act 1971 clearly states that the land should have been transferred in the name of the tenants, the farmers of Mikir Bamuni Grant in this case. We were shocked to learn that this land was first transferred to the descendants of the original landowner, that the tenants’ rights to occupy the land were deliberately ignored, and then that the purchase of this land by Azure Power has been accepted by revenue officers.
“In addition, there is a flagrant violation of the Assam Land Limits Act 1956. At no time did tax officials stop the illegal appropriation of such fertile farmland located in the middle of an active elephant corridor.
|Prafull Samantara speaks with affected villagers|
Leo Saldanha, Environmental Support Group, highlighted:
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promotion of 450 GW of energy production from renewable sources is full of inconsistencies, in particular the lack of appreciation of various details relating to requested funding and social and environmental impacts. It seems the message to state governments is to help the transnational and national private sector get land in any way.
“If the way Azure Power grabbed land from Mikir Bamuni is any indication, such land grabs can be expected across India, all in the name of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. on the climate and to make India a major producer of solar energy. referred to as ‘Just Transitions’, which are claimed to respond to the challenges of climate change, are completely outside the scope of India’s environmental laws despite specific instructions from the Supreme Court and the National Green Court that such projects must be subject to the environmental authorization review ”.
Bhargavi S Rao, Environment Support Group and Center for Financial Accountability, noted:
“The diversion of cultivated land that ends up in an active elephant corridor to the Azure Power solar park, is perhaps only the beginning of a transformation of the Nagaon region into industrial infrastructure. There was absolutely no consultation with the local communities. The fact that we found elephants moving through the villages during two of the three days we were in Mikir Bamuni, shows that the Forestry Department consented to the project when they should have declared the area an elephant corridor ecologically. sensitive to protect elephants.
“We also met women and children and heard some very disturbing accounts of how they were terrorized by local police and company officials. They are traumatized, yet no one from state welfare agencies or human rights commissions contacted them until when we visited the site. “
This FFC report demands that the government of Assam immediately stop construction of the Azure Power solar plant and take action to reclaim the land, restore it to the condition it was in before the plant was built, and hand it over to the public. ploughmen of the land. The FFC considers that the cost of this operation must be borne by Azure Power in accordance with the “polluter pays” principle. In addition, an investigation should be opened into human rights abuses and illegalities and frauds perpetrated by state agents to facilitate the illegal transfer of land in violation of judicial guidelines.
The report also affirms the immediate need for the Union’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to subject solar power plants and other renewable energy projects to a social and environmental review, in accordance with the instructions of the Green Court. national (southern zone), a decision upheld by the Supreme Court. Court of India. In addition, the FFC recommends that all financiers of Azure Power’s Mikir Bamuni solar power plant critically assess the funding base and take the necessary action in the event of breach of various guarantees to which the company has wrongly claimed. join.