Madhya Pradesh: Protesting tribal farmers stop construction of Runj dam; demand compensation

Runj medium irrigation project in Panna district is in the eye of the storm as project affected villages, majority of them adivasis, complain that they have not been compensated even though 60% of the dam construction work is over.

Arun SinghArun Singh   23 Nov 2022 1:01 PM GMT

Madhya Pradesh: Protesting tribal farmers stop construction of Runj dam; demand compensation

Ninety per cent of the affected people are from tribal communities. 

Panna, Madhya Pradesh

The 270-crore rupee Runj Dam project in, Ajaygarh tehsil in Panna district, Madhya Pradesh finds itself in the midst of a controversy. The Medium Irrigation Scheme with a proposed 1,182 metres long dam across the Runj river, a tributary of river Bhaigan that ultimately joins the Yamuna, is nearly 60 per cent complete.

Yet, the farmers from whom the land was acquired for the project complain that they have not been compensated despite waiting for the past five years. And recently they staged a protest and brought a halt to the ongoing construction.

Hundreds of protesting farmers, majority of whom belong to the tribal communities, marched 15 kilometres from the dam site to Panna district headquarters to gherao the district collector, Sanjay Kumar Mishra, and hand over their demands to him.

Farmers from Bishramganj village, and small settlements such as Pande Purva, Banglan and Majhpurva in Ajaygarh tehsil complained that they have not received any compensation for the land being now used for the dam project. Ninety per cent of the affected people are from tribal communities.

Also Read: Tribal women in the buffer of Panna Tiger Reserve brave wild animals and dangerous slopes to fetch water



"We are impoverished adivasis. Our lands, homes, wells and forests have been acquired for this project and we have received nothing by way of compensation," Harilal Kwander, a 60-year-old adivasi from Bishramganj, told Gaon Connection.

He said authorities have been prevaricating for the past five years. "They just say we will get compensation. The dam is almost complete, soon our homes will be submerged. With no home or land or source of earning a livelihood, where do we go? That is the reason we are fighting for our rights," he said.


The affected farmers whose lands will soon be submerged have represented to the authorities several times, but with in vain they say. Angered by the apathy, the women of the project-affected villages staged a dharna by sitting in front of the huge machinery being used in the construction of the dam.

Also Read: A 13-km trek carrying 30-40 kgs of firewood on their heads to earn Rs 150 – the daily life of adivasi women in Panna

Section 144 brought into force

On 12 November, Satyanarayan Darro, sub divisional magistrate of Ajaygarh, brought into force Section 144 at the dam site to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area.

But, the protestors are not impressed and are going ahead with their agitation. They insist they will not allow the work on the dam to progress unless they are given their demands are met.

"The authorities want to intimidate us by applying section 144 and calling in the police. But, we are not doing anything wrong, we are just asking for our rights," Shivdutt Gautam of Pande Purva told Gaon Connection.

"All we ask for is that the compensation amount that is due to us should be paid up. The collector of Panna has assured us that he will look into the matter, but if nothing happens we will go up to the chief minister," the 36-year-old added.

Also Read: Raja Bhoj, the great Bhojpur lake and its Mandideep 'island'

The demands

The affected farmers had a seven-point demand that they gave the collector.

Compensation be paid to the affected farmers, before the completion of the dam, as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013

* Their homes be reevaluated as per their condition

* Rehabilitation of the families as of 2022, should be done

* Those lands that are near the river should be re-evaluated and compensated for accordingly

* All structures and resources on the farmer land including wells, tubewells, ridges, etc. should be valued and compensated for accordingly

* Since 90 per cent of the affected people are adivasis, their village should be declared an adivasi village and be provided all provisions due under the tribal welfare act

* A committee of five members should be instituted under the Collector that should enable the process of rehabilitating

Also Read: Madhya Pradesh: For the first time, a gram panchayat in Panna district elects an all-women panchayat

Runj Medium Irrigation Project

The Medium Irrigation Scheme project coming up over the Runj river has been embroiled in disputes and controversies from the start. The administrative approval was granted by the department of water resources, Bhopal, on 22 July, 2011.

Map: Runj Medium Irrigation Project

Source: http://www.mppcb.nic.in/pdf/Public_Hearing-sum/542-Kunj-Report-panna/English-Kunj.pdf

The cost of the project was estimated at Rs 269.79 crore. The project is expected to irrigate 12,550 hectares of agricultural lands. A 42-kilometre long canal will be built and on completion of the project, 39 villages will get the benefit of irrigation.

As per the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report of the project, the submergence area of the project is expected to be 482.82 hectares (ha). Of this, the forest land is 154.91 ha, government reserve land is 87 ha, and private land is 240.91 ha.

The EIA report claims that the Runj project "would transform lives of about 39 villages people in this drought prone area and enrich their quality of living". It goes on to note that the "project shall provide irrigation and water facilities for drinking water to villages of district Panna and will boost the economy of the region".

Compensation status of those affected by the dam project

Gaon Connection made several attempts to get an update on the compensation status of the affected people from Uma Gupta, executive engineer, department of water resources, but he was unavailable for comment.

According to the press note released by the Department of Public Relations in Panna on November 16, under the application number 011/अ-82/2014-15 , a total of 772 joint account holders have been compensated from a total of 806 applications. Also, as per the application number 016/अ-82/2017-18, from a total of 45 applicants, a total of 40 applications have been compensated on May 15, 2020. Also, as per application number 001/अ-82/2018-19, a total of 201 out of 215 applications have been compensated.

Meanwhile, for the loss of trees, a total of 94 applications were compensated out of the total 142 received on July 27, 2022.


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