Warasgaon villagers turn landless againhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/warasgaon-villagers-turn-landless-again/

Warasgaon villagers turn landless again

Allowed to till land acquired in 1963 for Panshet dam but not used,27 villagers displaced again as government now gives land to BSF.

Allowed to till land acquired in 1963 for Panshet dam but not used,27 villagers displaced again as government now gives land to BSF.

For the poor villagers of Warasgaon who do not understand the difference between military and paramilitary,seeing these men in uniform turn up on the plot of land they believe rightfully belongs to them obviously comes as a shock to them. Particularly since this is not the first time they had been displaced by the government.

Since Saturday last,after Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde laid the foundation for a new BSF battalion,gun-totting personnel in uniform are guarding the land after directing farmers,who have been tilling that land for years,to vacate. BSF has acquired 80 acres in the village from the state government,not knowing that for 27 of the original 76 farm owners,justice is being denied for the second time.

Sahdev Hadke is one of the 27 farmers and has been representing the group at various forums and as well as at government offices throughout the struggle that started in 1963. Hadke simplifies their plight by saying,“In 1963,the state government acquired our land for constructing Panshet dam. Lands from the surrounding villages were acquired simultaneously. When construction of the dam was completed,our lands never came under the water cover or catchment area and thus remained unutilized. Moreover,27 of us were never rehabilitated despite repeated requests. As a result,when our lands remained unused for the purpose of the dam,we,with an agreement with the state government,started tilling the land again and have been doing so till date until last week when BSF told us to vacate the land.”

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While the government has maintained that these farmers or their forefathers lost their right over the land the day it was acquired,villagers point out the injustice. “Firstly,27 of us were never rehabilitated and have been virtually landless. Secondly,we feel betrayed that when we were trying on all the possible levels within the government to get back the unused land,the government sold it to BSF,” says Gopal Nivrutti Daswadkar,whose father’s land was acquired in 1963.

Follow-ups with ministers,bureaucrats and other government machinery have been backed by documents. The group cites a GR,dated October 10,1973,in which unused land can be returned to its original users with due procedures. The same GR directs the district collector to take necessary steps to return such unutilized lands to the original users.

Political agitations have also been unfruitful. Sunil Jagade,Taluka head of Shiv Sena in Velhe,has been agitating for years. “Repeated follow-ups with the district collectorate over decades have been fruitless,” he says. The group of farmers also agitated last Saturday when Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde visited the village. But Shinde put an end to all their hopes,reportedly saying that the land cannot be returned given that they are now with the BSF. Assistant Commandant Ajay Shelar of BSF also took a diplomatic standpoint when he said,“We have conveyed the plight of the locals to our headquarters.”

These hapless villagers have now given up hope. Twenty-seven families,whose daily bread depended on this land,have nowhere to go to. “Just short of monsoon,when we were to cultivate rice,our land has been taken away from us. This time,there is no hope. BSF is guarding our land against us,” Hadke sums up.

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