Hyderabad: Land acquisition by governments for development projects remains a contentious issue due a lack of a fair and equitable policy despite the recent Central legislation in this regard.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana state, farmers whose land the government wants to acquire are mounting a legal challenge. Not just land-owning farmers, even artisans, agricultural workers and those who depend on agricultural activities are opposed to the two state governments' drives to industrialise at their expense.
Both the states are witnessing agitations by farmers, artisans and agricultural labourers in the case of the greenfield airport at Bhogapuram in Vizianagaram district, the ports corridor at Machilipatnam, the Divis Laboratory in East Godavari district, the Godavari Mega Aqua Food Park at Tunduru in East Godavari district of AP, the Mallannasagar irrigation project in Medak and the Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift irrigation scheme in Mahbubnagar in Telangana.
Unplanned acquisition of lands by both the governments has created unrest among the people who are purely dependent on farming activity, said Mr Ch. Ravikumar, an advocate who is fighting cases on behalf of agricultural labourers in Medak district and farmers in the Kakinada Special Economic Zone in AP.
He said small and marginal farmers who are dependent on farming activity are opposing the land acquisition as they have small land holdings of less than a hectare.
The meagre compensation that they would receive for their land will not be sufficient for them to purchase another piece of farmland in the vicinity of the village. Ultimately, they will be forced to become landless and jobless.
Mr N.S. Arjun Kumar is representing affected farmers in Ranga Reddy and Mahbubnagar districts where the Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift irrigation scheme and Green Pharma City project require land. “The piecemeal approach of the authorities and discrimination shown in compensating the affected families are causing unrest among farmers,” he said.
Citing an example of a village which is going to be completely submerged under the Ryalampadu balancing reservoir, which is part of the Palamuru-Ranga Reddy scheme, he said that the government had paid Rs 5.5 lakh to each pattadar farmer and has paid only Rs 3.5 lakh each to those who were assigned land. This discrimination has led to unrest among the assigned land holders.
Though there is no discrimination between the pattadar farmer and the assigned land-holder under the Central land acquisition Act of 2013, the discrimination shown by the local authorities is causing the problem, he added.
He said that the government’s intention in issuing GO 123 and GO 45 to acquire land through mutual consent and thus avoiding litigation for Mallannasagar, Palamuru-Ranga Reddy scheme, National Investment and Investment Zone and the Green Pharma City has had the opposite effect and is leading to more litigations and widespread unrest among the people.
Referring to the claims of both the state governments that a majority of land owners were coming forward to sell their land for the new capital city in Amaravati in AP and for Mallannasagar and National Investments and Manufacturing Zone in Medak district in Telangana, Mr Ravikumar said: “Those coming forward to part with their land are not dependent on farming activity. They are just land owners. They are selling their land with a view to investing in other sectors. Their land is being cultivated by the tenant farmers. If the land is sold, the tenant farmers will lose their source of livelihood.”
Mr P. Madhu, AP state secretary of the CPM, said farmers in Pampadipet, Tatakulapalem and Kothapaka villages of West Godavari were continuing their agitation against marginal ex-gratia payment for their land which is being acquired for the Aqua Park at Tunduru.
According to the party official, farmers earn an annual income of Rs 1 lakh per year, but the government is paying just Rs 3 lakh as total compensation. Residents of Tunduru and its surrounding villages have been opposing the project, alleging that the establishment of the aqua food park would cause pollution and contaminate the water.
Farmers from the villages under the Machilipatnam Ports Corridor have formed the Machilipatnam Bhoo Parirakshana Samithi, led by former Machilipatnam MLA Perni Nani. They are opposing the state government’s acquisition of over 33,000 acres for the Machilipatnam Port and Industrial Corridor through the land pooling scheme.
According to Mr Nani, thousands of farmers who rely on fishing and agriculture will be forced to migrate in search of work to distant places if the land in the coastal belt is diverted for any industrial purpose.
Mr S. Fareed, who has been leading the farmers of Pedda Karagraharam under the Machilipatnam Ports Corridor, said that they are ready to give up their lives but not their land....