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Site near Ghodi Village where work has been suspended for two months

Why land acquisition has become a tricky issue

|Narendra Kaushik|

New Delhi: Despite repeated pleas from officials of Greater Noida Authority(GNA), Mahesh Pandit has not vacated a piece of land in Sector XU-2 he was compensated for about a decade ago. Resident of Ghodi Village, Pandit continues to squat on the land, which was to be converted into a park for the residential sector.

He wants the authority to compensate him for a tube well he bored for irrigation and for trees he has grown around his land. In case that does not happen he has no intention of quitting.

Pandit creates a ruckus every time the authority wishes to carry out any development work near the piece of land and allows the work only after extorting money from contractors engaged by the authority.

The case of Pandit is a pointer to what has gone wrong with acquisition of agricultural land in Western Uttar Pradesh and other states in the country.

Pandit is not alone. His village has a history of fighting violent clashes with the GNA. Around half a decade ago, five people from the village got killed in police firing over a land dispute in the same sector with the authority.

Two months back, housewives from the village forcibly chased builders out of a construction site meant for low income groups alleging that the authority had failed to provide basic amenities in the village and promised plots of land to farmers whose land was acquired for the purpose.

They would allow resumption of construction only after the authority fulfilled their two dozen demands which include construction of a Girls’ Inter College in the village.

Lakhi Singh, a guard at the site

Lakhi Singh, a guard at the site

Apart from compensation, the authority was supposed to allot plots (six per cent of the land acquired) to farmers. Around 200 farmers are yet to hear from the agency on this.

To complicate matters further, a court recently asked the authority to allot four per cent more (that makes total 10 per cent) land to the farmers.

“Construction activity is suspended here for two months because authority has failed to redress farmers’ complaints. Building contractors and flat allottees are the biggest losers,”

bodaki station was to be converted into a regional railway station

Bodaki station was to be converted into a regional railway station

says Lakhi Singh, a guard at Sector MU-2 project site located next to the village.

The authority has already allotted on paper 29 square metre single bedroom flats to 5,250 people under a 2013 housing scheme at the site. The flats were to be built at a cost of Rs 248 crore.

Move a few km north of Ghodi Village and you get to hear about another land dispute.

Here the farmers of Boraki, a village which was supposed to be the last station of Noida-Greater Noida metro line, are locked in a conflict with the authority.

The village was also supposed to be a hub of DMIC (Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor) and a regional railway junction.

The authority wants villagers on one side of the railway track to make way for the railway junction. The latter, however, would like to first see alternate land the authority will provide them in exchange of the proposed acquisition.

“Authority has no land to give us. It is fooling us. Where do we go?”

asks an angry elder Sewa Ram with a group of farmers around him nodding in agreement. Another farmer Rampal Singh charges the GNA with promising them less land in exchange.

“It will give us 80 per cent land in exchange. Moreover unlike our land which is freehold, the given land will be on lease,”

claims Jagat Singh.

Boraki metro station pointer

Boraki metro station pointer

Unsure of getting land in Bodaki, the GNA has for now decided to cut the Noida-Greater Noida Metro route short. It is also looking to shift the regional railway junction from Boraki to either Palla or Ajaibpur village. But there is no guarantee that it will be easier for authority to acquire land there.

After all, the authority is mired in land dispute in almost every other village of Greater Noida.

Rob farmers to pay builders

Be it Patwari, Shahberi or Bhatta Parsaul (Greater Noida), Mathura or Gurgaon what angers farmers around the country is that while state governments pay them less compensation they sell their land to builders at much higher premiums.

The builders in turn earn windfall gains from house seekers.

Rampal singh (left)

Rampal singh (left)

Often farmers’ lands are acquired under the garb of industrialization or public purposes but then given over to colonizers to make profits.

Change of Land Use (CLU) becomes another name for sleight of hand and milked by politically connected people like Robert Vadra to amass instant wealth.

Judiciary plays a positive as well as negative role in the process.

It has exposed government’s deceit (Shahberi and Noida Extension cases are examples whereby the courts uncovered how the authorities acquired land for some other purpose but allowed colonization on it later, in several cases and either cancelled or ordered extra compensation to farmers.

At the same time, it grants frequent stays on acquisition and causes delay in execution of infrastructure projects.

Vote bank politics

It is almost a norm that farmer agitations are always supported by one political group or the other. Farmers are considered a vote bank and no government wishes to antagonize them.

Jagat Singh (second from right)

Jagat Singh (second from right)

This is what emboldens them to vandalize public property and blackmail state administration.

Earlier this month, farmers protesting acquisition of their land for a barrage on Yamuna River in Mathura, pushed a high ranked police officer when the latter tried to pacify them, smashed vehicles and pelted stones on policemen. The violence left host of police personnel injured.

Land agencies fend for themselves

Ruling politicians often lead farmers’ protests for extra compensation.

It is no secret that Noida and Greater Noida Authorities are greatly handicapped in taking action against squatters. They can expect no support on this from Akhilesh Yadav Government or the state police.

“How do we evict farmers? The government does not take a strong stand against them even when the latter’s intentions are malafide,”

a top official in Greater Noida Authority throws up his hands in despair. The official attribute the increase in land disputes between authority and farmers to latter’s greed.

The state governments tie police’s hands and look the other way when the force personnel are at receiving end from the farmer groups.

A befitting example of this was Kandela Village near Jind District in Haryana where the farmers demanding free electricity from the then Om Prakash Chautala regime blocked Jind-Panipat highway, abducted a Deputy Superintendent of Police and held him in captivity for several days in May 2002.

Ruling dispensations, the lawmakers and even the opposition parties are always attempting to help the farmers even at the cost of exchequer and growth.

Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act 2014, formulated by Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s behest, has not only increased the cost of land acquisition manifold, delayed the acquisitions by several years but is also hampering construction of affordable housing.

No wonder Narendra Modi Government looks set to tweak the Act in the coming days.

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