Agrarian crisis is far from over

Instead of disbursing higher payouts to farmers under the new law, the Unnao administration is allegedly dispossessing them of their fertile lands, reports Mudit Mathur

The agrarian crisis and subsequent land acquisition issues of the farmers of the state seems too far to be over. They appear to be victims of administrative apathy and shortsightedness. Natural calamities ruined their crops resulting in unbearable debt burden on them. But insensitive government machinery continues to conspire to usurp their land at throw-away prices without legitimate compensation. The farmers’ unrest in Unnao over their forcible dispossession from their lands on which the government acquisition stood lapsed in view of the new law enacted after Bhatta Persol protests in 2013. The new law enables farmers to get higher amount of compensation along with rehabilitation and resettlement rights in view of losing a perpetual source of their livelihood.

The role of administration in Unnao was quite questionable where instead of disbursing higher compensation to all the leftover farmers under the new law, they bent upon to forcibly dispossess of from their fertile lands. The Government had planned various housing and industrial development projects on this land in the 2003 during Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party’s rule. Technically, the land acquisition proceedings for the Trans Ganga City Unnao stood lapsed in view of inordinate delay under new law that aims to strengthen farmers’ rights and interests.

In the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh, angry farmers set ablaze UPSIDA’s warehouse over prolonged delay in payment of higher compensation of their fertile land adjacent to the banks of river Ganga acquired for the development of non-polluting industries and housing under its Trans Ganga City scheme in 2003. Farmers’ agitation turned violent, resulting in loss of millions of rupees. Plastic pipes reduced to ashes while JCB machines and vehicles parked outside got damaged on November 17, a day after farmers clashed with the police. The farmers were demanding higher compensation under new law for their fertile land acquired for an upcoming township and industrial estate.

The farmers also set on fire a power substation there during sharp clashes with the police. The police had resorted to heavy baton-charged and fired many round of teargas shells on them to control the aggressively violent farmers. They have not even spared women protesters. Earlier on November 16, farmers also pelted stones at the police party injuring five policemen, including CO City.

“Some anti-social elements had set fire to plastic pipes kept outside the godown. Apart from this, two vehicles were also set afire including a mixer vehicle of UPCIDA,” confirmed Additional District Magistrate Rakesh Singh. “Due to the burning of plastic pipes kept in the warehouse, the fire took a gigantic form and the panic of smoke rose to a great extent, causing panic in the village,” he said.

“The police arrested five people during the clash and registered cases against 30 named and 200 unknown people,” the SP of Unnao said. “Villagers and some unruly elements attacked UP State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) officials and their vehicles. Some miscreants later fired at the police team and also pelted stone on them. Five police personnel were injured,” he added.

“Furious police teams are tracking theleaders of the farmers and raided many hideouts. Police teams are particularly targeting one leader Hirendra Nigam and his life is in danger,” alleged Ramshankar and Ramendra disclosing that he is under the threat of elimination in police encounter. Police has detained more than 50 people in police station including women in connection with violence. Ramendra Mishra of village Sankarpur Sarai that the UPSIDA officials have forcibly occupied land of around 250 farmers without paying them proper compensation.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi sent a six-member party delegation on the spot to have firsthand report under its leader of legislative party Aradhana Mishra Mona. These leaders interacted with affected people and villagers during their visit at ground zero-consists of Laxmi Khera, Murlipur and Shankarpur Sarai to ascertain truth that provoked farmers-police clashes on November 16. The delegation condemned oppression of armless farmers who suffered severe injuries in baton charge by local police.

The entire area has been surrounded by heavy police forces depriving villagers to approach doctors or nearby nursing homes. Police is misbehaving with women and beating male members without any rhyme or reason. They have been treated inhumanly and deprived of routine necessities. All these happenings compelled male members to stay away from police wrath. Aradhana told Tehelka, “Farmers are frightened by the terrorising act of police crushing their peaceful agitationcontinuing for more than two years, against determination of compensation of their land in the acquisition.” She supported their demand to revise the amount of compensation in accordance with new legislation brought by Congress party to protect the interests of farmers as a whole.

Congress delegation demanded judicial probe into unprovoked baton charge on the agitated farmers by a retired judge of the High Court and withdrawal of cases filed against farmers. State Congress delegation included General Secretary Rakesh Sachan, MLA Sohail Akhtar
Ansari, Manoj Yadav, State secretary VivekanandPathak, district president Subhash Singh.

The farmer’s welfare organisation, Rashtriya Kisan Manch (RKM) has come forward to defend the agitated farmers saying that they did not assemble there to indulge in violent proteststhey were only demanding higher compensation for their valued fertileland as sole source of their livelihood. Kisan Manch president Shekhar Dixit said that at least one third of farmers of the clash-hit areas did not receive compensation and violence erupted when police and officials of UPSIDA were forcibly dispossessing them of their land.

The state government conceived the idea of ambitious project-Trans Ganga City- during Mulayam Singh Yadav regime in 2003. The government acquired 1144 acres of land on the banks of river Ganga under the scheme. The plan envisaged integrated use of the land including 147 acres of non-polluting industries, 97 acres for housing projects, 45.39 acres for group housing, 14.45 acres for industrial housing, 158 acres for mixed usages, 61 acres for housing displaced farmers, 355.67 acres for open area- parks and facilities and 263 acres for road networks connecting Kanpur town and barrage.

The agitated farmers complained non-payment of higher compensation, however the District Magistrate Devendra Pandey, denied their claim and reiterated that the farmers got adequate compensation for their acquired land. While communicating with Tehelka Mr Pandey asserted that land acquisition for this project involved only the three villages affecting 2039 farmers out of that 1925 have received compensation amounting to 93,02,02,224. The payment to remaining l14 farmers could not be done due to litigation in various courts but we have 5,22,38,628still available for them. The government further gave ex-gratia payment of 7 lakh per bigha through UPSIDC in addition to compensation @ 1.51 lakh per bigha. It was further raised to 5.51 per bigha under settlement rules. Thus, effective price per bigha paid @ 12.51 lakh.

On the other hand, farmers contend that after passage of almost 17 years the prices of land have gone tremendously high as compared to compensation offered by administration. Legal experts are of the opinion that most of the land acquisition proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act 1894 stood redundant due to passage of time in view of  Section 24 of “The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013”. This Act envisaged rehabilitation aspects and enhanced quantum of compensation to the tune of four times of the market rates. In the backdrop of Bhatta Persol agitation of farmers in western Uttar Pradesh and thereafter, enactment of drastic changes in the law governing land acquisition in the country, the Unnao farmers have turned wiser.  The clashes have given ammunition to political rivals of ruling BJP. BSP chief Mayawati condemned police action on farmers and tweeted, “Instead of resolving compensation disputes with the farmers, BJP government should not resort to lathicharge and exploitation of farmers. Government must take it seriously.”

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav also criticised the BJP government in his twitter. “In UP farmers are facing police lathi instead of fair compensation of their lands. They are not getting proper price of their sugarcane. Their crops werer damaged because stray animal graze their food produces. The cases of food growers’ suicides are on the rise in the country. Is it the definition of development in BJP rule?”

The joint action committee of BHU students opposed brutal baton-charge by Unnao Police on the farmers. Student leader Vikas Singh said, “We students are fighting against privatization and consumerism which is in fact extension of farmer’s struggle. Right from Mandsaur to Umbha (Sonbhadra) they are facing bullets. They are not getting remunerative prices for their farm produce provoking them hard to commit suicides.”