Last week, Larson & Toubro Limited (L&T) began the land survey for the proposed Khammam-Devarapalli four lane greenfield project, nearly one and half years after the project was approved by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The project has been marred with protests from farmers in Telangana’s Khammam district against land acquisition and the compensation announced which only came to a halt amid the ensuing pandemic.
While the state authorities are holding meetings with the farmers to dispose off their objections, farmers’ unions are gearing up for a legal battle against the project.
Under the central government’s Bharatmala Pariyojana economic corridor development initiative, the NHAI in 2018 had approved the highway extending 162 km, which connects Khammam district in Telangana with Devarapalli in Andhra Pradesh at a cost of Rs 4,609 crore. Subsequently, L&T got the contract for executing the project.
Farmers from 10 mandals -- Khammam Urban, Khammam Rural, Chintakani, Thallada, Konijerla, Wyra, Penuballi, Kallur, Vemsoor and Sattupalli will be required to give away 1,990.12 acres of agricultural land for the project. Arguing that they would lose livelihood by giving their fertile lands, farmers have held numerous protests against the project.
On July 4, the district authorities called upon the farmers to discuss the matter at the Kallur’s Regional Divisional Office. Unions have stated that the farmers have unanimously opposed giving lands to the highway project in the meeting.
Also read: Farmers Not Prepared for Telangana’s New Farm Regulating Policy: Unions
The aggrieved farmers have organised against the protest with the support of farmers unions such as Telangana Rythu Sangam affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha.
“To connect the two towns, the NHAI could have upgraded and widened the existing 100ft Khammam - Aswaraopeta state highway to national highway. So that the fertile lands will be saved and no farmer will be displaced,” said Madineni Ramesh, Khammam district secretary of Telangana Rythu Sangham. Besides, the compensation announced for land acquisition will do no favour to the farmers, he added.
“If the project has to be constructed, then at least the farmers must be compensated according to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, with which the farmers would get three times more than the market price of their lands. But with the state’s acquisition act of 2017, the farmers will end up getting compensation which will be less than the market value,” Ramesh told NewsClick.
He furhter told NewsClick that the farmers will take their fight to courts as the state police are repressing peaceful protects citing COVID-19 restrictions.
“On behalf of all the farmers who are losing their fields, I want to bring to your kind notice that upgrading the existing 100ft Khammam Aswaraopeta State Highway to National Highway benefits everyone without affecting agricultural productivity or misplacing the farmers,” tweeted Doddapuneni Meghana Chowdary, a farmer who will lose land if the project commences, highlighting that there are ways to develop connectivity without the new project. She added that the money that the government gives against land acquisition will not compensate the land.