GAIL tackles angry Gujarat farmers over pipeline

Vol 13, PW 16 (28 Jan 10) People & Policy

GAIL has set up a high-powered committee to tackle angry Gujarat farmers amid fears it might need police protection to begin laying the second gas transmission pipeline from Dahej to Vijaipur (DVPL-2).

Over 3300 farmers claim GAIL owes them Rs53cr ($11.5m) for using their land when it laid the first Dahej to Vijaipur pipeline (DVPL-1) in 2003 and want work stopped on the proposed DVPL-2 project until they are paid. GAIL usually has a nine member committee of deputy general managers to deal with such claims, but in this case it has chosen a more senior team of four general managers and an executive director from its project, legal, and corporate departments - a measure of just how seriously it is taking the protests.

On January 15, the team held one round of inconclusive talks with some of the farmers and their representatives. GAIL is now considering asking local police for protection so its contractors can begin work.

“GAIL has not yet firmly decided this course of action,â€‌ a source explains. “Approaching the police would be a last resort.

But we need to do something by the end of this month as the contractors have mobilised and will have to be paid for sitting idle.â€‌ Future D6 gas supplies to north India are dependent on the DVPL-2 project, heightening the urgency.

GAIL never promised the farmers $11.5m as compensation for DVPL-1, according to a company source. “Do these farmers have anything in writingâ€‌ he asks.

“If so they should give proof.â€‌ He adds that GAIL’s overall compensation estimate for DVPL-1 was Rs9cr ($1.9m) “There could be, at most, a 50% margin of error with that estimate,â€‌ we are told.

“But demands of Rs53cr ($11.5m) are unacceptable!â€‌ GAIL further claims some farmers have demanded compensation for ponds and canals unaffected by pipeline laying work.