EVEN AS Shirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil rushed to Delhi to take up the airport issue with the Central government, villagers of Purandar taluka Monday protested against the government’s effort to set up new Pune airport in their area. The agitating villagers sought to tell the government that they will not part with an inch of their land and that the airport plan should be taken back to Khed where it was originally planned.
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Reacting to the villagers’ demand, Adhalrao said the farmers in Khed were ready to part with their land and therefore the government had a comfortable option available. “Since there is so much protest happening in Purandar, it is clear that the airport plan will be further delayed if the government decides to go ahead. Already, the airport plan has been pending for years. The government should immediately change its plan for an airport from Purandar to Khed where plenty of vacant land is available and farmers are offering additional land,” he said. Adhalrao added that he was in Delhi to discuss with the Central government the issue of setting up of the airport in Khed area.
Around 4,000 villagers of Ekhatpur, Munjwadi, Pargaon, Rajewadi, Waghapur, Amble and Khanwadi Monday submitted their memorandum to Purandar tehsildar, conveying their opposition to the airport plan in no uncertain terms. The villagers had planned a morcha, but due to code of conduct in force for council polls, they had to cancel the morcha. They submitted a memorandum to the tehsildar in front of the Saswad municipal council. This was the second big morcha organised by the farmers in past one month and they said there will be more morchas in future till the government cancels its plan.
Vilas Kadlag, a farmer who was in the forefront of organising the morcha, said the villagers are gripped with the fear that they would be displaced from their villages where their generations have lived. He said the villagers apprehend that their livelihood in the form of their farms would be snatched and they would be left in the lurch.
Kadlag said the villagers have no clue what is in store for them. “Neither the tehsildar, circle officer nor the district collector or any other official is explaining to us what is going to happen if the government goes ahead with its plan. The fear of displacement is high among villagers. Every villager believes that his or her village is going to be emptied out and only a small portion will be left. If our land is going to be taken over, where will we go? We have been living here for generations, we can’t go and settle down elsewhere,” he said.
Kadlag said the state government, a few years back, had spent over Rs 600 crore for Purandar lift irrigation scheme which has helped hundreds of acres of farm land in the taluka. “If the farm land now goes for airport, it means the crores of rupees which government pumped in for farmers will go waste,” he said.
Instead of grabbing the farmers’ land, Kadlag said, the government should go back to Khed where the vacant land is already available. “We have already met Adhalrao-Patil who told us that Khed farmers have given their go ahead for the airport plan. He told us that the 1,200 acre SEZ land is already available and farmers are ready to make available additional 300 acre land,” he said. District collector Surabh Rao was not available for comment. The Chief Minister’s Office also refused to respond over the farmers’ demand.