JEWAR: There’s no storm blowing around Bhagwan Singh. Spread out on a charpoy in his spacious two-storey house, Singh’s manner mirrors the of this August afternoon. He is in no rush; not to talk, not to go anywhere. And certainly not to sell his .
Singh is headman of Rohi, the village that virtually holds the veto on land acquisition for the UP government’s prestige project —Jewar international airport. More than a third (481 hectares) of the 1,263 hectares the UP government has to immediately acquire in the first phase is in Rohi.
Earlier this week, during negotiations with the government, residents of Rohi refused to accept the rate being offered for their land — up to Rs 2,500 per square metre. They stuck to their demand of four times the circle rate, which is Rs 3,600 per sqm (1 hectare is 10,000 sqm).
Frustrated government negotiators have since gone public with their views that the airport project may have to be moved elsewhere if the farmers do not scale down their demand. Even chief minister has asked them not to be too rigid on prices. But farmers say all they want is to secure their futures, and need the money they receive to settle elsewhere, buy land and fund their children’s education.
Singh, in his mid-40s and a large landowner himself, says he suspended plans to further develop his house when he was informed that the government wanted to build an airport in . “I made this house only a few months ago but stopped further construction when the entire area was notified for acquisition,” he says. Referring to a visit on August 16 by district magistrate BN Singh to hold talks with villagers, he adds, “We found nearly everyone is ready to sell their land. But most are small farmers having less than half an acre. This is why they have not reached a unanimous conclusion about the price.”
In all the six villages notified for acquisition — Dayanatpur, Kishorpur, Banwariwas, Parohi, Ranehra and Rohi, all just off the around 60km from Noida — most residents are willing to sell their land and houses, say villagers. But anxiety about the price is stopping them from making a commitment. A social impact assessment report, submitted in June, had cited the same concern about land acquisition.
Around 87% of the 1,263 hectares to be acquired is under cultivation, another reason why villagers insist the price must be “fair”. “It’s a loss of livelihood, and land,” says a farmer.
In Ranhera, a game of cards is on under a tree. The conversation, too, revolves around dealing the right hand, but in talks with government negotiators. “The government will give a job to one family member. Some people live in joint families and there are several job seekers. The jobs will lead to an internal fight,” worries Dainish Kumar. “We will be displaced from our ancestral homes and land. We will have only the compensation amount to rebuild our homes and lives afresh, at some new place. Don’t we deserve to be suitably compensated?” asks Vijay Pal, a resident of neighbouring Kishorpur.
The social impact assessment report submitted in June 2018 states farmers in Jewar are mainly involved in cultivation of wheat (54.4%), paddy (12.2%), bajra and jowar (14.7%) and maize (9.4%). Around 34% farmers own less than 2.5 hectares. Around 5% of those being asked to sell their plots are large landowners. The report also found that only 33.33% people in the six villages have income above Rs 20,000 (almost 28% earn less than Rs 5,000 per month).
The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) has placed large hoardings in these villages informing the area has been notified for the airport and any construction is prohibited. District magistrate B N Sigh says the talks are in progress to get farmers’ consent: “They are responding positively. We will hold further meetings with them.”
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