New Delhi / Mumbai: Around 1,000 farmers have sought to reclaim land acquired from them for a power plant being built by the Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s (R-Adag) Reliance Power Ltd (RPL) at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh—a further setback to the company that is fighting a case in the Supreme Court against an order of the Allahabad high court that allows the farmers to do this.

Mandatory requirement: An Uttar Pradesh government notification, published as an advertisement in the Hindustan Times on 19 Dec, invites farmers’ complaints against the acquisition of their land for Reliance Power’s proposed 7,480MW Dadri power plant.

The Allahabad high court on 5 December had quashed the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Uttar Pradesh government’s notification of 11 February 2004, which had inserted a special clause according to which R-Adag could acquire 2,500 acres for the 7,480MW power plant without conducting a public hearing as typically required.

The assistant district magistrate (ADM) in the finance and land acquisition department said he had since received applications from around 1,000 farmers.

RPL has appealed the high court’s order in the Supreme Court, claiming that the adverse order so late in the day was unnecessary as the land had been acquired at considerable cost and by scrupulously following required legal processes. The next hearing of the Supreme Court is scheduled on 18 January.

The Uttar Pradesh government on 18 December initiated repossession procedure for land allotted to the Dadri power project. Interestingly, while a person close to the developments at RPL, who did not want to be identified, said the state government was yet to publish a notice in newspapers as required before it can start entertaining the farmers’ applications, Saravjit Ram, ADM (finance and land acquisition), said that these notices had appeared on 19 December.

Mint has confirmed that the notice appeared on page 29 of the 19 December edition of the Hindustan Times.

A spokesperson for RPL declined comment because the matter is before the Supreme Court.

The high court had directed the district magistrate (DM) of Ghaziabad to make a detailed inquiry into farmers’ grievances and had asked the farmers to file their objections to the DM. The court had permitted the farmers to reclaim the land, which had been ceded to RPL, by returning the compensation received by them.

“Today I received 556 applications from the farmers. In their plea, the farmers mentioned that the land ceded to RPL was a prime agricultural land and their only source of livelihood, and they don’t want to part with it. They also wished to reimburse the compensation amount in instalments. As per the DM directive, 18 January was the last date to file their complaints. We expect to receive more applications tomorrow," Ram added.

“The farmers by coming in huge numbers have proved RPL wrong; RPL always maintained that farmers are happy with the land acquisition and would not reclaim even an single inch ceded to RPL," said Ashish Pratap Singh, a lawyer representing some of the farmers.

Interestingly, the estranged Ambani brothers are locked in a legal dispute that is currently before the Supreme Court on the terms at which the Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries Ltd will sell gas from its fields in the Krishna-Godavari basin to the Anil Ambani-controlled company Reliance Natural Resources Ltd, which will, in turn, supply gas to the Dadri project.