New Delhi: Authorities speak of a relatively smooth land acquisition process for the proposed international airport in Jewar, 60 kilometers from Noida, with over 75 per cent of farmers signing the consent forms. Many, though, say they only gave consent for the airport project and not the compensation offered.
Farmers in Jewar Tehsil are voicing their discontent over the compensation offered by the government in exchange for their land, despite agreeing to sign consent forms. Several, who have not yet given their consent but will be forced to yield because of the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, say they will recourse to court of law over the issue.
Sixty-five year-old Gyanendra Sharma, a farmer from Rohi, is one of the few who have resisted the authorities’ efforts to acquire land in the region. He has farmed on his land for as long as he can remember. “I have spent my life doing this,” he said. Sharma owns 22 Bigha of land (one Bigha in Jewar region is approximately equal to 900 square metres) and has not consented to the land acquisition process.
However, he will be forced to give away his land and residential plot as over a minimum 70 per cent of affected families in the region, as mandated by the Land Acquisition Act, have agreed to sell their land. “I did not give my consent, because what will I do with Rs 15,97,000 they have offered per Bigha? It is too less. I had pleaded to the District Magistrate that we be provided four times the circle rate as compensation,” Sharma told News18.
On May 18, before the land acquisition process began, the regional authorities changed the land notification in Jewar from ‘rural’ to ‘urban’. The Land Acquisition Act says that an ‘urban land’ will fetch twice the circle rate, while a ‘rural land’ will get four times the circle rate. Farmers in Jewar thus feel cheated and have been demanding four times the circle rate of the region for their land.
“Neither are they giving us four times the circle rate for rural, nor are they giving twice the urban rate,” Sharma said. The farmers say that if their region is now considered officially “urban”, the circle rate, which stands at Rs 900 per square metre, should be the same as that of a city like Noida.
“The consent forms do not mention any rate or any other details of compensation. If we sign and submit those with our photos and Aadhaar details attached, who knows what they’ll put on the forms,” Sharma said.
Sharma earns about Rs 1.25 lakh by cultivating and selling paddy and Rs 1 lakh from wheat and feels giving away his land will jeopardise his future. “I will fight the case. I am ready to go to court and I won’t give consent,” Sharma said.
Devesh Kumar from Kishorepur runs a cyber café not too far from his village. He, too, has not given consent as he is sceptical about government’s promises. “The big problem is we have not been told where we will be rehabilitated. We will put our concerns in fron of the court. We’ll decide what to do after that,” Kumar said. Yogesh Kumar, another farmer from Kishorepur is also concerned because none of the things offered in exchange for land are on paper. “There’s no written proof. There’s no proof of rehabilitation. The seven percent developed land that Mayawati had promised is not there. The 20 percent mandated by the Act is not there too. They say they’ll give a job, but even that promise is not in writing,” he said.
Kishorepur Pradhan (head of the village) Tejbir Singh voiced similar concerns. He has a mere three Bighas of land and thus will receive a comparably lesser amount as compensation. “On 18th May, our Panchayat was dissolved. Our accounts were closed. Since that day, our village — Kishorepur — became an urban area,” he said.
Singh said government must ensure the coming generation doesn’t suffer due to unemployment. The promise of a job must be fulfilled. “The youth, they’ll steal, they’ll fight. When they don’t get jobs, what else will they do? If the government doesn’t give them jobs, they’ll come on streets. They’ll have to beg.”
Ved Prakash, his father and four brothers too haven’t given consent for the acquisition process because they want the compensation to be four times the circle rate. The entire family owns 20 Bighas of land. “The people who have agreed for Rs 2,300 per square metre as compensation for land will be provided developed plot and job. But those asking for Rs 2,500 will just get the monetary compensation. That is what the authorities have told us,” Prakash said.
According to him, the farmers who have not agreed to sell their land are currently picketing in Dayanatpur. “We won’t give land, even though more than 70 percent families have agreed. We’ve decided to go to court. We only have a legal way now. We have 100 Guz residential land, how will I stay in half that area with four sons? Where will the generations to come live? Refugees from other countries get a place to stay. We are Indians and our homes are being taken away,” he said.
The government has promised a developed plot spread in half the area of farmers’ residential plot for those who will lose their houses too. Rohi and Kishorepur will be fully subsumed by the airport project. “After all these years, we have finally built pukka houses in the village. Now they want to demolish them and move us elsewhere,” Prakash said.
Sharma, the Rohi farmer, is also hesitant to let go of his house. “The DM told me that I’ll have to transport the rubble once my house is demolished. I folded my hands and requested him not to call it rubble. We have built this house with many difficulties over 50 years. Please do not call it rubble,” he said.
Even the farmers who signed the consent form say they only agreed for the airport project to come to Jewar, but did not agree with the compensation offered. “I gave consent for land acquisition over our MLA’s word. He had said, this consent is not for the rate offered, but for the airport to be constructed here,” said Rohtash Chounker, a resident of Rohi.
Satish Rana of Jhangeera Ki Jhopadi, a hamlet attached to Rohi, too said he had agreed to sell his land to ensure the airport project in Jewar was greenlit. “There has been no discussion over compensation. If the government is promising, I’ll trust them. Let’s see what happens,” he said.
There also seems to be confusion over what is included in the compensation package. Many villagers believe their family members will be provided government jobs. They say, the authorities promised them the same before getting their consent. However, government has only guaranteed a job at the airport, which will be private and contract-based.
“There is no promise of government job. They will be given jobs at companies that come to the region to set up their businesses and at the airport, based on their qualifications and skills,” confirmed Dhirendra Singh, Member of Legislative Assembly from Jewar.
The BJP leader also said the demands of farmers were justified. “If they have to leave their houses behind, they will try to get maximum compensation,” he said. According to him, the deliberation over the compensation is ongoing and things will become clearer after section 11 process for land acquisition is completed.
Section 11 is a part of the Land Acquistion Act that refers to the initial steps needed to be taken after farmers agree to part with their land. As part of Section 11 process, the government releases an official communication saying the land has been acquired for the project.
Regarding the farmers’ claim that they were told the consent form was for the airport project and not the compensation, Singh said, “My job was to get consent from the farmers in the region. It is possible the farmers are saying that. The District Magistrate will answer this question.”
B.N. Singh the Distric Magistrate for Gautam Buddh Nagar district confirmed the consent was for the compensation as well. “Earlier only four farmers had consented because of this reason (compensation). If the consent was just about the airport, they all would have agreed earlier also. So obviously, the consent is for the rate too. If it was just the airport, they would have agreed earlier also,” he said.
Over the non-consenting farmers and their demands, the DM said, “We have done a detailed exercise. We cannot have 100 percent agreement. But as per law, we have got consent from more than 70 percent families and we are also trying to get more. It is a democratic process taking people into account.”
A source in Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority also said the consent for the current offered rate has been obtained. “The feasibility of the project must also be kept in sight. The farmers are getting Rs 2,300 per square metre, which is already a high rate. The land we are providing them for rehabilitation is also costing us Rs 4,500 per square metre. They are also getting twice the amount of their residential building, developed land half the area of their residential plot and transportation and rehabilitation costs,” the source said.