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May 29, 2011

Page: 8/37

Home > 2011 Issues > May 29, 2011

Maya’s Nandigram
Gifting away farmland to builder lobby
Loot of oppressed farmers. Protesting BJP takes the lead

By Shivaji Sarkar

STRANGE are the ways of politics. At least so it is in UP. Corruption is ruling the roost in this state for the last over a decade. The present regime of chief minister Mayawati surpasses all. The beauty is no one aspiring for power in the state has the courage to take up the cudgel to call her so.

Nobody questions her how she has multiplied her wealth. From a virtual pauper, today she is the wealthiest person in the state. She has cases instituted by various agencies but a friendly Central Government and its agencies indulge in dramatics of prosecuting her or investigating the ways she amassed wealth.

It was no surprise that she allowed the Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to enter the strife-torn Bhatta-Parsaul in Greater Noida, where no political party leader was allowed entry. She even lifted orders under Sec 144 Cr PC in the night before Gandhi was to reach the village on the pillion of a motorbike.

For Gandhi, of course, it was not the first dramatic moment. He had done such shows in Bundelkhand and some other parts of the state. But nowhere had he tried to affront Mayawati. He has also not raised a question on dwindling finances of the state government. Not once Gandhi has criticised the UP government for its failure on law and order front, blatant loot of state’s wealth and leasing vast stretches of tract along Yamuna – from Noida to Agra. Even a stretch of the expressway that has been built by Noida and Greater Noida authorities has been ordered to be handed over to the JP group.

Another stretch around a proposed 1000-km Ganga Expressway upto Ballia has also been awarded to the JP group.

The expressways are being leased out to the group for 30 years with wide powers to levy toll not only on the expressway but even on roads approaching it.

The JP group would build large township along the both expressways. It would ensure a steady income for the JP group at incremental rates for the next three decades.

The state government functioning as the agent of the group is aggressively acquiring the most fertile land. The farmers are either being cajoled by offer of compensation or are being forced to give up their land for the group.

The state does not need the expressways, which are being built almost parallel – a distance of 10 to 12 km from the existing GT Road and Noida-Aligarh-Agra highway. It is only adding to the growing unemployment in the state. It has two lakh people registered with employment exchanges. With the state on a spree to dispossess more farmers, the condition is to worsen.

The way the state government is functioning as agents of private groups has raised many questions. She has acted against the setting up of a mega power plant by the Reliance group, sanctioned by her arch rival and predecessor Mulayam Singh Yadav. It is too recent to be forgotten.

Surprisingly she has not done a bit to reverse Yadav’s decision to stop plying of a regular DTC bus service from Connaught Place in Delhi to Ghaziabad. It had benefited transport lobbies of UP. Not only that to prevent DTC from plying buses also in Noida, she forced DTC to raise fares so that the UP transport lobbies could continue to reap the benefit.

For each suffering of the people, she has allowed different corporate groups to reap enormous benefits. The suffering of farmers, their deprivation, death or loss of occupation do not cause any stir in the minds of the Chief Minister. She is busy consolidating her position and coffers to face the 2012 state assembly elections.

But there is none to protect the rights of a non-descript Bhatta-Parsaul villagers in Noida in UP, 50-km from Delhi. The village has shaken the country for its resolve to fight against acquisitioen of land from farmers.

Another battle may begin in the neighbouring Saadapur in Ghaziabad, where farmers have tilled 12,500 square acres of land acquired by the Ghaziabad Development Authority.

The state government is also ignoring orders of Allahabad High Court. The Noida Authority is out to have a direct dealing with farmers to buy 156.9 hectare land in Saberi village so that builders could construct flats. The deal was rescinded by Allahabad High Court. The farmers are not being returned their land. But now it is being said that deals for the fertile land is being done with “mutual consent”. The method was reportedly suggested to the authority by legal advisers of the building companies.

Mayawati can certainly say that she is not alone in depriving the farmers of fertile land. The battlefield is too wide. Orissa has done it in Posco and Kalinganagar. In many other states a dozen power plants would require almost two lakh acres of land and likely to dispossess about 1.25 lakh farmers of their sources of livelihood. Many special economic zones are also to put similar kind of demand.

Apart from the concern on what would happen to dwindling area for agriculture, one need to look at the plight of the farmers. They are forced to sell their land for peanuts. The so-called ‘developers’ resell it at exorbitant prices. The farmers suffer a double deprivation – losing their livelihood and land for prices that are not remunerative.

In many cases the farmers become unskilled labourers.

The UP government pays compensation of Rs 850 per sq meter, says Congress MP Jagadambika Pal. It is sold to private parties at Rs 28,000 to 30,000 per sq meter, he says. This is what the farmers at Bhatta-Parsaul are objecting. In Haryana, a floor rate of Rs 12 to 30 lakh has been fixed. Bihar takes the highest of last three years as base and adds another 50 per cent to decide the floor rate.

This bestows farmers with huge fund. They may have been leading a comfortable life but did not have large cash in their hands.

The land deals also lead to sufferings at the social level. The deals even at low rates compared to their resale prices fetch each of the land-holders huge sums of money. This becomes the bane. Not used to handling such huge funds, the families often squander the money away on small luxuries like buying big cars, big houses and other furnishings in areas around Noida, Greater Noida and elsewhere in western UP.

During marriages use of helicopter has become almost a fashion. In one case, the groom was presented a copter.

This opulence has cost them dearly. The money that they get vanishes soon in many cases. But the lifestyle cost increases manifold. The comforts become difficult to afford. This leads to a complex problem for the youth. Easy money leads them astray.

As funds dry up for many in a short span, the youth take to crime –lootings, snatchings, robbery, kidnappings and even murder. This has been the story of development in the villages of Delhi and around National Capital Region (NCR). It has become the highest crime-infested region. The books do not show it as police particularly in UP do not register cases.

The Land Acquisition Act 1894 allows government to acquire any land for “public cause”. The provisions are vague. The land being given in the name of development is fertile and has rich soil, but greed and nexus of politicians and the builders overcome all this.

Now the law is proposed to be amended allowing private companies to acquire 70 per cent of the land for their requirement and 30 per cent would be acquired by the government.

The new proposed law has no provision to prevent arm twisting by large groups. The 1894 law has at least the provision to protect the land holders. Unless a decision is taken at the government level, the process of acquisition cannot begin. The new law has virtually done away with that.

The 1894 law has forced the Essar group to reduce the size of their SEZ to 200 hectare from the proposed1100 hectare in Jamnagar.

Since there is no Mamata Banerjee in any rival political party in UP, Mayawati has none to fear. She knows farmers would be coerced to accept a “revised” rate of compensation in Bhatta-Parsaul or elsewhere in the state like in Aligarh.

As there is none to lead a Singur or Nandigram type agitation that led to the downfall of the mighty CPI-M led Left Front government in Bengal, Mayawati can go on steamrolling the aspirations of the people. She has least concern for the national good. The stretches she is trying to build largest townships by the JP group, is the bread basket of the nation. Multiple crops grow here – wheat, rice, mustard seed, sugarcane, ragi and what not.

Be it Yadav’s Samajwadi Party or the Congress are apparently afraid of raising their voice against a mighty Mayawati. She is on record saying that her rivals are too jealous of her as for the first time a Dalit has amassed “some” wealth. Mayawati also knows how to keep the rivals in a state of fear.

She had ridden to power citing the poor law and order regime of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The crime rate in the state has not come down since 2006. Dacoities have increased to 170 in the state in 2010 from 135 in 2006; loots to 2007 from 1782; rapes to 1552 from 1382 and at least 57 recorded kidnappings.

It is said that the figures cited above are also far less than the actual occurrences. The state police reportedly do not register cases easily. In quite a few cases, BSP ministers and MPs have been arrested for rape and murder.

The state Chief Minister has also got a friendly media. They hardly carry critical stories about her regime. Even the Bhatta-Parsaul police firings got a low key coverage in the state media, be it in Hindi or English.

Uttar Pradesh is perched on a tinder box. Its bad luck is that no one is there to light the match stick. If this remains the state of affairs, none knows whether there would be a silent revolution in UP. A revolution is possible if some political party has the courage to take up the cudgel to call the spade a spade in the state.

Any political party may emerge as the winner in 2012 polls, if it plunges into this battle as actively as Mamata Banerjee did in Bengal. It also has to take up the issue of protecting the farmers and farmlands for the food security of the country.

It also has to oppose the amendment proposed in the Land Acquisition Act 1894 giving wide powers to the land mafia.

The party that people are looking to has to have the capability to rid them of almost 15 years of misrule and loot of the state. People do not want such a political party to be swayed by lobbies of economists who do not see any harm in such land deals as “it brings in investment”. People want the political party – the messiah they are waiting for - not to remain a silent spectator about the land deals of the past where industries or projects either have closed down or failed to come up but the acquired land does not go back to tiller. Besides, it is also not used for other industrial activities.

The land in the entire country is being held by corporate. They are emerging as the largest zamindars. It is not just a case of enacting or amending laws. It is an issue that apart from affecting social fabric, it has terrible cost on food security as the projects come at the lowest cost on cheapest but fertile farmlands.

It calls for a total policy relook at land acquisition of any kind. It also needs to be stressed that land belongs to the society and not the few rich corporate and the ownership must be vested in the society. Farmlands must be protected for feeding the future generation and the state must be deprived of its role to benefit the rich, people of the UP say. Would someone come to their rescue and give them leadership?

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