Protest patch mars a highway in the making

On a 3km stretch of the proposed 50km,four-lane Bakhtiyarpur-Patna highway,for which land is being filled,a patch of green stands out within the 25m-wide band of earth

Written by Santosh Singh | Bakhtiyarpur | Published:February 16, 2012 3:38 am

On a 3km stretch of the proposed 50km,four-lane Bakhtiyarpur-Patna highway,for which land is being filled,a patch of green stands out within the 25m-wide band of earth.

These are crops,a sign of a villager’s refusal to give up his land because he hasn’t been compensated yet. There are other unfilled patches,not always with crops.

Along this stretch lies Madhopur,the village that on Tuesday saw a protester killed in firing,though who fired on the agitators isn’t clear yet. The immediate demand was for a culvert,with almost all of Madhopur’s cultivable land across the highway,but the village’s location does not fit into a plan to set up a culvert for every kilometre.

Also,villagers want jobs in the project. The project managers say they have employed some but cannot accommodate all; they need skilled labour.

Shailesh Rai,the villager killed,owned one bigha,out of which he gave up six cottahs. He was among those who had not received the full payment,fixed at Rs 1.6 lakh per cottah. His wife Sunita Devi,27,has four children,aged from eight to two. “He gave up his life besides his land,” sobbed Sumiti Devi,his sister. The family shares a mudhouse with Dinesh,Shailesh’s younger brother.

The Rs 770-crore project is being developed by B Seniah & Company (Hyderabad) and Chadha & Chadha (Gurgaon). They propose 30 culverts for a 30km stretch till Didarganj,where the road merges the existing national highway. They were waiting for NHAI clearance for one at Madhopur,as demanded. As of now,the culvert nearest Madhopur is at another village some distance away.

“First,we want full settlement before allowing work to proceed,” said Bikram Yadav of Madhopur. “We want culverts at shorter distances. The present arrangement would mean travelling a long distance to reach our fields.”

“We have written to the NHAI about the demand,” said senior project manager Shashi Bhushan Prasad Singh. “Culverts cannot be constructed at ½km distances along the entire stretch.”

The manager concedes 10 per cent of the landowners are yet to be paid. The rate is twice the prevailing government one; the target is 238.58 hectares from 57 villages.

Besides,company officials said,payment is the Patna land acquisition office’s job.

Yet another complaint by villagers is that some of the acquired plots have not been mentioned in the gazette notification.

Some 400 people were working on the project when the firing happened. “We deny firing from our side. Our staffers carry only double-barrel guns,” Singh said.

Additional SP (Barh) Saurav Sah said a complaint has been registered against both sides. “We will find out who opened firing. Prima facie,the investigation suggests there was firing from both sides.”

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