Farmers agitating for parity in compensation block work; Maya sends minister on the spot to get her dream project rolling again
Work on the Mathura stretch of the Yamuna Expressway,earlier known as the Taj Expressway,on Thursday came to a grinding halt as farmers of the area blocked the construction to press for their demands of parity in compensation. The farmers say the compensation being given to them in lieu of their acquired land is way below the amount being offered in places like Noida.
The 165 kilometre six-lane expressway from Agra to Noida of which 82 km will pass through Mathura has been a dream project for UP Chief Minister Mayawati,who even had had to face corruption charges but was later cleared of any wrongdoing by an inquiry committee.
Apprehending an escalation in tension following the police firing at agitating farmers that led to the death of one on Tuesday,Mayawati has decided to send her Agriculture Minister Chowdhary Laxmi Narain to Mathura to take stock of the situation. Mathura DM Anita C Meshram has already constituted a magisterial inquiry into the firing incident.
Around 1,500 hectares of land is being acquired from five districts for the ambitious project Gautambudh Nagar (NOIDA),Aligarh,Mathura,Hathras and Agra. The 9,000 families being affected by the Expressway have so far been given Rs 460 crore as compensation to,according to government records.
Though the affected farmers have been agitating for some time now,the situation flared up three days ago,when Sarvadal Kisan Sangharsh Samiti,constituted by local farmers,held a major demonstration in Mathura. The police opened fire in which one protester was killed and six critically injured.
All farmers should be equally treated by the government as land has similar economic and emotional value for each of them, Samiti president Ram Babu Kataria said.
Keen to corner Mayawati in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls,political parties have joined the issue to back the agitation.
While the BJP and the Congress have already sent teams to Mathura,led by Virendra Singh Sirohi and Krishnaveer Singh,respectively,Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is scheduled to visit the place on Friday along with Amar Singh. The CPM has also voice support for the agitating farmers.
Kataria,however,denied any political motivation. Our demands are genuine. After farmers agitation in NOIDA,the government increased compensation by Rs 100 per metre. At least,that increment should be given to us as well, he said,adding they would also demand job for one child in each of the affected family,besides scrapping of stamp duty on purchase of alternative land by farmers.
We have not sold our land by choice and therefore the government has not earned any stamp duty on it. Now,we are asking the government not to charge stamp duty from us as well,when we buy land.
In May last,the Mayawati government had formed a panel of senior officers of the project along with additional district magistrates of the districts concerned and representative of Jaiprakash Associates Limited (JAL) the company that had bagged the contract for the project to look exclusively into the land acquisition work.
The committee members had apprehended a deadlock at Mathura where 50 per cent farmers were not ready to sell their lands on the given circle rates.
The government,however,defended the compensation criteria saying the circle rate of NOIDA cannot be compared with that in Mathura.
It was in February 2003 when the then Mayawati government had awarded the contract for Yamuna Expressway to JAL,which was to complete the Expressway within 7 years at an estimated cost of Rs 1,600 crore.
The work on the project was stalled after Mulayam Singh came to power in UP in August 2003. He levelled corruption charges against his predecessor in awarding the then Taj Expressway contract to JAL.
However,Justice S Narayan inquiry committee appointed by Mulayam Singh not only gave a clean chit to the project,it also made a strong recommendation for its implementation.
The project got a new lease of life after Mayawati came to power in May 2007. However,with almost six years on,the cost has escalated to more than Rs 3,000 crore now. According to JAL spokesperson,The Expressway would be trafficable before the Commonwealth Games start.
* NOIDA: Rs 800 per sqm
* Aligarh: Rs 390 per sqm
* Mathura: Rs 350 per sqm
* Hathras: Rs 350 per sqm
* Agra: Rs 400 per sqm