Nagpur: The Covid-19 lockdown across the country for the past 70 odd days has kept billions of Indians at home, but Nagpur-based Rita Steel & Industries has used the lockdown to brazenly usurp agricultural land belonging to farmers and another adjoining company premise in brazen disregard of the existing laws of the land.
It’s a simple case of using the absence of manpower during lockdown to chop off 70 fully grown healthy trees and blatantly capturing land belonging to Nagpur Power Company and farmers in connivance with local authorities. Says a local farmer whose land was also captured by Rita Steel, “The brutal felling of 70 odd large trees can never be undone. Those trees had survived droughts, famines and many natural calamities. They bore testimony to our ancestors’ land. It is a matter of deep anguish to all of us.”
In mid may, amid lockdown, an attempt was made to widen the pathways passing through the property of Nagpur Power & Industries Limited in Kanhan, Nagpur. On inquiring it was revealed that the local Nagar Parishad was doing some repair works. However, the municipal body as well as the local state Public Works Department (PWD) denied having commissioned any such work. An FIR was filed in the local police station against the illegal construction activities.
On 11 June, 2020, without any prior intimation or reasonable notice, some engineers from the tehsildar’s office and a local contractor by the name of Tushar Rawal along with a team of local police officers arrived on the property to do mojni (survey measurement of land). The collusion of these three authorities emboldened them to forcibly start work on the road.
The team trespassed into the industrial premises of Nagpur Power and caused irreparable damage. They destroyed the boundary wire fencing and poles, uprooted, cut and demolished a large number of fully grown trees and plants and other assets. They then proceeded to illegally build a road with the help of JCB Machines, Dumpers, Falkland etc.. The work continued till next day evening during which they even broke the railway tracks entering the land parcel of Nagpur Power connecting to its railway siding. A complaint to SEC Railways has also been made. In this blatant abuse of power and political influence, a lot of villagers’ farm lands have also been destroyed.
In the suit filed at the Nagpur Civil Court, the petition whose copy is with this correspondent, reads, “(Nagpur Power & Industries Ltd.) submits that the land situated at Survey Nos. 101 and 106 entirely belongs to the plaintiff (Nagpur Power) and there is no Pandhan or the way for the movement or egress or the outgress exists. Under the circumstances, to carry the construction in the private land of Nagpur Power & Industries Ltd. is illegal and in violation of the Law.”
Clearly the lockdown and its consequent stay-at-home norm prompted the owners of Rita Steel whose premise adjoins that of Nagpur Power in Kanhan to commence this illegal work. The connivance of local authorities clearly points to some kind of political influence. While cases have been filed in the civil court of Nagpur, it remains to be seen how the current coalition government formed with support of independents deals with the issue.