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Govt. decides to return land acquired for Jayankondam project – Mrit News

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The reason for the decision is the steep rise in the compensation that will have to be paid

The reason for the decision is the steep rise in the compensation that will have to be paid

After acquiring 3,390 hectares for the 1,600-MW Jayankondam integrated lignite mining and power generation project nearly 25 years ago, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to return the land to former owners without collecting the compensation paid to them. 

“We have decided to give a decent burial to a project which has remained virtually a non-starter,” says a government official, adding that it is going to be a notional return of land as there has been no physical acquisition thereof.  An order of re-conveyance of the land was issued by the Department of Industries last week. 

The reason for the government to return the land is the steep rise in the compensation that would have to be paid. The government has also concluded that no worthwhile project can be carried out, given the revised land cost.  The government order, issued on June 2, stated that the land would be returned after getting a request from the former owners. 

Ariyalur Collector R. Ramana Saraswathi told The Hindu that though the land was under the control of the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO), the nodal agency for the project, they were being used by the former owners for cultivation. The modalities of returning the land would be worked out as per the direction of the office of Commissioner of Land Administration, the Collector added. 

In August 1993, the erstwhile Tamil Nadu Electricity Board and the Jayankondam Lignite Power Corporation (JLPC), a special purpose vehicle, signed a memorandum of understanding to take up the project. TIDCO was one of the equity partners of the JLPC. Four years later, the government scrapped the entire project and chose a consortium, led by Reliance Industries, to execute it. When this attempt failed, the government, in 2005, roped in Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), after which the project got bogged down in the policy, administrative and legal issues. 

The original land acquisition process took off with the government issuing an order in May 1997 and initiating the proceedings in September 1998.  The land in Jayankondam and 13 villages was acquired at a rate of ₹35,000 per acre from about 3,500 owners. Subsequently, around 10,000 cases, officially called land acquisition original petition cases, were filed for more compensation.  Two special courts,  formed by the Madras High Court, disposed of about 70% of the cases, revising the compensation, on an average, to ₹15 lakh per acre. This was around 42 times the original award. 

The government, in November 2013, decided to have appeals filed in the High Court against the award passed by the special courts. Based on the direction of the High Court, a high-level committee was set up in August 2017 to reconsider the matter. Following the deliberations the committee held with all the stakeholders, the government, in February 2021, issued an order, fixing the enhanced compensation at 23 times the original award. It also directed the TIDCO to settle the amount of ₹45.4 crore. Six months later, the TIDCO took a position that no project could be found viable, considering the land cost.  Besides, about 65 former landowners had written to the government and the TIDCO, expressing their willingness to return the amount in exchange for land. 

( With inputs from C. Jaishankar in Tiruchi.)

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