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Farmers' stir in UP gains political colour

Sreelatha Menon  |  Tappal (Uttar Pradesh) 

Farmers’ agitation near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh over the acquisition of their farmlands for an expressway is gaining more political colour with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today accusing the state government of forcibly acquiring land from farmers.

The party also said it would hold a state-wide protest on August 25. It will also submit a memorandum to Chief Minister Mayawati demanding Rs 25 lakh ex-gratia payment to kin of those killed in the recent agitation and allocation to farmers of Tappal a compensation equivalent to that given to their counterparts in Noida, state president Surya Pratap Shahi told reporters in Lucknow.

The developments came a day after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi visited the Tappal village in Aligarh district, the epicentre of the peasants’ protests, and even announced Rs 20 lakh for the families of the victims — double that what was announced by the state government. Four agitating farmers were killed in police firing last week. He also assured a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of the wounded.

Villagers told Business Standard that Gandhi arrived in the evening and assured them that they would get the same rates for their land as was given in Noida.

The visit has spread hope among farmers who have been complaining of land being seized even without a deal (see box).

On Friday, another top Congress leader — general secretary Digvijay Singh — attended a massive rally of farmers from six affected districts and attacked the Mayawati-led BSP government for the present situation.

These districts are collectively expected to lose 1,550 hectares of land with farmers in six villages in the Tappal block likely to lose 500 hectares for three townships proposed to come up along the Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway.

Addressing the farmers, he said a legislation was mooted by the previous UPA government giving farmers ownership over land in the form of permanent royalties even after it was sold. But that was opposed by the BJP, he pointed out.

He even cited the Haryana model, saying that the state government offers market rates as well as an annual royalty of Rs 20,000 per acre to the farmers who have given their land.

Singh said the Uttar Pradesh government was offering Rs 580 per square metre, while it would sell it to the builder for Rs 5,500 . We want the same rate that was given in Noida or else remove this Expressway, he said.

He also said that the land acquisition Bill was awaiting amendment and if there was cooperation among all parties, the amended Bill could become a law which would help not only the farmers of Uttar Pradesh but also the whole country.

The farmers, meanwhile, felt that the party was taking political mileage from such a sensitive issue, and all these assurances were mere rhetoric.

Zile Singh, who owned 30 acres in Kansera, where an entire farm land is being acquired, said: “I would die rather than give my land which belongs to five brothers. No amount can help us get another farm land anywhere. Here we were having three to four crops a year. The money will get over and we will be left with nothing.”

As soon as the Congress leaders left, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti leader Manvir Singh Kevatia rebutted the glowing praises showered on Rahul Gandhi by various Congress leaders, including Singh. He said that if Rahul Gandhi had truly been concerned about the farmers’ cause, he would have been there (at the rally).

The other prominent speaker, Bharatiya Kisan Union President Mahendra Singh Tikait, said the land acquisition Bill should be repealed as it allows the state to acquire any land even if it was to build townships and real estate projects.

“The farmers should continue their struggle till they get the same rates that were given in Noida to farmers who gave their land for the expressway,” he said.

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First Published: Mon, August 23 2010. 00:46 IST