Ayodhya: “We don’t have anything against Ram, but why our land?,” these words are echoing in Majha Barhata gram sabha in Ayodhya district, where the grand statue of Hindu deity Ram is set to be erected.
The Ayodhya district administration issued a notice in January informing the villagers that around 86 hectares of land would be acquired to build the grand statue of Ram and a digital museum. The village is around 7 kilometres away from the Ram Janmabhoomi site.
The decision to build the highest statue of Ram measuring about 251 metres on the Lucknow-Gorakhpur highway was passed by the Uttar Pradesh cabinet in November last year. The budget sanctioned to build the statue and digital museum was a whopping Rs 446.46 crore.
Ram Chandra Yadav, the village headman says that villagers from all the four villages within his gram sabha will be left without any resource to earn their livelihood. “We will not let our land to be acquired by them and we will challenge it in the High Court,” Yadav said.
He further alleged that the administration did not conduct any study to understand the social impact on the villagers after their land is acquired. Also, instead of the usual 60 days time given to register any objection, the villagers have been given only 15 days which is against the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. As per the act, “Whenever the appropriate Government intends to acquire land for a public purpose, it shall consult the concerned Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation, as the case may be, at village level or ward level, in the affected area and carry out a Social Impact Assessment study in consultation with them.”
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The village headman added that they had written a letter to the administration, informing that the villagers will be left in the lurch once their land is acquired.
Notably, the administration issued a notice in the local newspaper on January 25 asking over 250 landowners in the concerned gram sabha to register their objections. As per the information gleaned through credible official sources, the administration has so far received more than 180 complaints and the process to address these complaints has been initiated.
NewsClick contacted District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha’s office for his comment on the issue but the office responded that he was busy and will not be able to answer any queries.
Anil Yadav, a villager from Majha Barhata who is very angry with the decision of land acquisition, questioned, “Why only our village when there is a lot of land in Ayodhya? Where will we go after this, how will we feed our children?”
“With what faith will we go and bow our head to Lord Ram if our land is taken by them? Half of the land of this village has already been acquired by the Maharishi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust and now they are coming after our land,” he added angrily, blaming the elders of the village who allowed the trust to acquire the land in the village for opening schools.
Lakshmi Shankar, the Lekhpal (a land and revenue official) told NewsClick that it is true that there is dissatisfaction among the villagers over the acquisition of land and how it has been done.
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“The villagers were already wary with the Trust acquiring so much land in the village in the name of opening schools and hospitals, which they (Trust) failed to start. Now, they feel that they are not getting enough compensation for their land. The authorities have been roped in to solve the complaints of the villagers and soon everything will be in place. The major dissatisfaction is with the Trust. Few of the villagers have also raised a demand for government job along with the compensation for the land acquired,” he told NewsClick over telephone.
He further added that the rate of compensation that is being given by the government is much higher than the actual cost and that over half of the population has agreed happily to give their land.
Commenting on the issue, Naushad Alam, a city expert said that the villagers are demanding better compensation and jobs as they are aware that once the project is over, they (administration) do not even come to repair the drains or road, no matter how many times complaints are made. “The villagers are hoping their demands will be fulfilled as the project has already been announced and the government is not going to step back,” he further added.