Bhopal: Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and Rajya Sabha MP Jytoiradiya Scindia’s dream project for the development of Chambal region with 404-km ‘Atal Chambal Progress Way’ connecting boundaries of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh via Sheopur, Morena and Bhind seems to have come to a halt.
Demanding compensation under Land Acquisition Act, 2013 instead of land exchange policy of the state government, designed in view of the empty state coffers, 90% of farmers from Sheopur district are unwilling to give up their lands for the project. Similar reports have arrived from Morena and Bhind districts as well.
The project, which was launched by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in 2017, picked up pace after former Congress leader Jyotiradiya Scindia switched over to the BJP with their 22 MLAs in March this year. The state government sanctioned financial assistance of Rs 781crore for this project including Rs 421 crore for land on July 4.
The BJP has fast-tracked this project with an eye on the upcoming by-polls on 27 seats, 16 of which take place in Gwalior-Chambal region.
As per the exchange policy, farmers are being offered barren or agricultural land at a different location in lieu of land acquired, whereas most of the farmers are demanding compensation under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 that amounts to four times the market value of the land in the rural areas and two times in urban areas.
“A team of government officials including the patwari and tehsildar visited the village,” said Mangilal Suman from Sotwa village of Sheopur district. “They offered me exchange land in lieu of mine. They didn't tell me where that land is, but I assume that either it is being cultivated by someone else or it might be barren,” he said. Mangilal has 19 acres of land, but hasn't been informed about how much land he will acquire and where the alternative land will be.
For the construction of a four-lane mega highway, stretching about 97.30 km in Sheopur district, the state government is likely to acquire 593.870 hectare land from 1,100 farmers of 50 villages, according to the Sheopur district collector office.
The Ram Lakhan of Talawada, who harvests wheat and paddy in his 20 acres of land, has been offered the same by the officials.
“Most of the fertile lands are being tilled by one or other; be it government land or otherwise. Even if the government provides its land, I’m sure someone will have possession over it. This will lead to disputes. Hence, we want compensation as per the law to buy lands and make a living,” said Ram Lakhan.
“When there is a law to provide compensation for land at four times the market rate, then why should I take the risk of taking land at an unknown place? I can buy land of my choice from the compensation I receive,” he explained.
Farmers from the Sheopur district held a protest on August 13 at the collector office. Handing over a memorandum, they demanded compensation under the Land Acquisition Act to those who have registered lands. They also urged the government to compensate those farmers who have been cultivating on government land for years.
“We live in ravines. My ancestors have dedicated their lives to make this barren and uneven land fertile. This piece of four acres land is the only source of livelihood for my family of seven members,” says Ramkaran Ram of Baroda village.
Another farmer wishing not to be named said that railways too acquired land from the farmers for its broad gauge project from Gwalior to Sheopur, but it is providing compensation as per the Land Acquisition Law 2013. Why is the state government hell bent on going against the law? He questioned.
“The state government is trying to pit farmers against each other,” said Sheopur Congress Chief Atul Chouhan who has sent a letter to the President and demanded compensation and a job for the family of the farmers whose lands are being acquired.
Atul claimed that farmers spend years in leveling the barren lands and ravines of Chambal with their sweat and blood and have been cultivating those lands to make a living. Many families are entirely dependent on it. “Now, all of a sudden, the state government is snatching lands from them, without providing any alternative to those farmers and offering those lands to other farmers under land exchange programme. It will create dispute between the farmers.” Chouhan said.
When contacted, Commissioner, Chambal Division, RK Mishra, said, “The state government has been acquiring three type of lands: private, government and forest land. We are offering cultivation lands to farmers in exchange for their lands. We have already acquired the government land and talk for the forest lands are on.”
He, however, dodged the questions regarding farmers’ demand and those who are cultivating government lands for decades.
Sheopur Collector Rakesh Shrivastava, did not respond to the calls.
The Atal Chamal Progress Way project
On the second death anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, CM Chouhan renamed Chamal Express Way in the former’s memory.
The Rs 8,250 crore Chambal Expressway begins from Kota in Rajasthan and passes through Sheopur, Morena and Bhind to merge into Kanpur highway in UP. The Progress Way is proposed in four-lane and sufficient land will be spared for development of eight lanes in the future. Out of the total length of 404 km, Madhya Pradesh will house 309 km of the expressway. This corridor will touch Agra-Kanpur expressway at Bhind, North-South Corridor at Morena and Delhi-Mumbai corridor in Rajasthan,
“It’s our dream project and industrial hubs and sector-wise clusters will be developed as part of this project, which will generate employment” said Chouhan.
"For early commencement of the project, we have constituted a high power committee led by Chief Secretary which will work for speedy approvals of this project and I will also speak to the chief minister of Rajasthan," he said.