The much delayed dream project of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav — the 270-km-long Lucknow-Agra Expressway — has hit yet another roadblock, one that has allegedly been created by the SP government itself and one that threatens to throw the project completely off track.
Residents of several villages in Etawah have refused to part with their agricultural land, which has been marked for acquisition for the project. Reason: the SP government has allegedly fixed the DM circle rate for Akhilesh’s native village Saifai at Rs 1.2 crore per hectare compared to Rs 8 lakh to Rs 12 lakh per hectare for other villages just 10 km away.
Objecting to the discrimination, the villagers, who claim they will hardly get Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh per bigha, have refused to part with their agricultural land. Several of them have been staging a sit-in against the government’s decision for the past five days and have threatened to go on a hunger strike if the rates are not revised. Chaupula, a town area with a population of nearly 2,500, has become the nerve centre of protest with adjoining villages such as Nagla Khadani, Gopalpur, Bhojpur, Ishwarpur, Santoshpur and Mauja Moond joining in.
Every house in Chaupula, situated about 10 km from Saifai in Etawah, has a black flag fluttering as a mark of protest. The town will lose its existence if the Lucknow-Agra Expressway is constructed. The administration is offering a compensation of Rs 8 to 12 lakh per hectare to the affected families in Chaupula and adjoining villages.
“This is cheating as Saifai has a circle rate of Rs 1.2 crore per hectare,” said Matadin Yadav, who heads a loosely formed protest committee of locals. The Congress too has thrown its weight behind the agitation.
“Our agricultural land, banks, inter college, health centre…everything will be finished. The compensation offered by the administration is too little and not enough for survival as we have to start our life afresh,” Yadav said. “We are trying our best to meet the Chief Minister but have failed. We will be meeting DM Etawah and serve an ultimatum about launching a hungerstrike,” he added.
The district administration, too, admitted the difference in compensation as Saifai falls under Saifai Development Authority.
“It may appear surprising as compensation in Saifai is 10 times more than other villages, but here we have to pay as per square foot for land. It is under a development authority while the remaining villages have agricultural land,” Ramdas, Land Acquisition Officer, Etawah, said.
The SP in its election manifesto had promised that acquisition of any agricultural land, which gives two crops, will be banned for industries and infrastructure activities. If it is acquired under special circumstances, the compensation will be six times that of the circle rate. The party had also promised a job to one youth and life long pension to the elderly in the family whose land has been acquired for industries. “We are demanding that they should fulfil their poll manifesto,” Matadin Yadav said.