An unfulfilled promise, inadequate compensation and a fear of losing their identity are key reasons why some farmers in Jewar are resisting the Uttar Pradesh government’s bid to acquire their land for a proposed international airport. The farmers are also peeved about the categorisation of their region as “urban”. This classification makes them eligible for a compensation of two times the circle rate, instead of four times which is applicable on agricultural land under the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Several farmers in five villages — Rohi, Parohi, Dayanatpur, Kishorpur and Ranhera — are ready for the acquisition as per the administration’s offer of Rs 2,300-Rs 2,500 per sq metre, while some others are demanding Rs 3,600 per sq metre, four times the circle rate. An international airport has been proposed in Jewar in Gautam Buddh Nagar for which around 5,000 hectare of land is to be acquired. The reported cost of the airport, scheduled to begin operations by 2022-23, would be Rs 15,000-20,000 crore.
The government, in the first phase, wants to acquire over 1,300 hectare from the five villages, affecting 2,250 families.
Murlidhar Sharma, 69, from Ranhera village claimed he is yet to receive a plot as was assured by the administration in addition to the monetary compensation for his land that was acquired for the Yamuna Expressway. I have seen all governments. Now what should I say… I had land along what now is the Yamuna Expressway. I was promised a plot seven per cent the size of my acquired land — which I have not got till date,” he claimed.
“Over 8,700 sq metre of my land was acquired, some officials initially gave me some documents along with registry papers. They came back after acquisition and took away that paper as well,” Sharma added.
He claimed there are several others like him waiting for that compensatory plot which was supposed to be in a Yamuna Authority-developed area of the district. Ravi Sharma, 61, claimed the government had promised to build service lanes along both sides of the expressway but that has not been done.
No farmer is opposed to development or the airport but they are concerned about the disparity in the rate of compensation for land, he said.
“For the construction of the Peripheral Highway three years ago, the government doled out compensation at a rate of Rs 3,600 per sq metre. So there should be a uniform rate of compensation within a district,” he said.
Sharma stressed that the farmers want government jobs for their children as per their qualification. According to the phase I of the airport project, farm land will be acquired from all five villages, but residents of Rohi village (in entirety) and Dayavantpur (partially) will have to be resettled elsewhere.
Residents of Rohi village say this “development” will be only for those villages which will remain there after the acquisition of land.
“Some villages will be displaced, what benefits are they going to reap from it. Only a better compensation deal could be the best thing for them,” Pooran Prasad Sharma, 48, said.
“We are not begging for anything, we are seeking what is our right…And we don’t want a 50 sq metre plot where we can’t even keep our cattle. At least 150 sq metre plot of land for residence.
“More importantly, there is no information on where our village will be resettled. Before the land acquisition, the government should tell us where will they resettle this village and its people,” Sharma, a farmer who owns one acre land, said.
Mahender Singh, 69, says the farmers are happy with the government’s work and support development for the entire country and not just Jewar.
“But the only sad part is that once we are displaced from our homeland, we will lose our identity, our culture and traditions. Our religious beliefs will get affected.
“There is a local temple where my ancestors have been offering prayers. Any newly-married bride who steps foot in the village first goes to that temple and offers prayer to the ‘kul devta’ (family deity) before entering the house. All this will be lost,” says Singh. The locals said the region’s classification as rural area was changed to urban without their knowledge. Some villages were brought in “industrial zone” in 2015, while the remaining in May this year.
“This region was overnight categorised as urban from rural when not even a matchstick is manufactured here. Government officials are not given house rent allowances at par with their urban counterparts,” Naresh Kaushik, 42, a teacher in a government school claimed.
The locals rued the tag of ‘urban’ area, saying they were getting 12-14 hours of power supply. However, there are several farmers who are willing to get their land acquired as per the current offer from the administration.
Sanjay Bhati, 33, who has five acres of land in Rohi, said according to his calculation he would get around Rs 5 crore.
“With half of that money I can buy an equal size of land elsewhere, ensure proper education for my children and also try my hand at some business,” he said, adding living on farm income alone is becoming difficult.
Bunty Singh Chhonker, 38, with one acre land in Ranhera, said the income from farm leaves him with “enough to feed his family but nothing in savings”.
“With the money that I get for the land, I plan to start some business and also send my daughters (11 and 8) to better schools,” he said. District Magistrate Brajesh Narayan Singh, who has toured all the villages to talk to farmers, said he was expecting a positive outcome. “We are trying our best and I’m hopeful that the people will see the logic,” he told PTI in Ranhera, where he interacted with hundreds of locals a few days ago.