Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Al Jazeera
As one drives through Haryana, between Rohtak and Mahendragarh, one can see the streets dotted with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flags as Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar recently concluded his Jan Ashirvad Yatra, an attempt by the government to blow the bugle for the state Assembly elections scheduled to take place in October this year. Throughout this belt, a major farmers’ movement is also gaining momentum. In over 20 different parts of the state, thousands of farmers are mobilising against the anti-farmer approach of the BJP. One such mobilisation is taking place in Narnaul, where farmers have been sitting on an indefinite agitation for over 50 days now.
The farmers are demanding compensation for their land which has been acquired by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The state has acquired over a thousand acres of land throughout this belt of the state for three major highway projects. Speaking to NewsClick, Dharmendra Singh of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said, “We are told that our lands are being taken in the name of development. The BJP government is pushing for three major national highways –NH11, highway 148 B and 152 D. In the construction process, over 40,000 farmers of the state are set to lose their productive agricultural land. Not just that, we are not being fairly compensated for this acquisition.”
Provisions of Land Acquisition Act flouted
The protesting farmers are also stating that the government has violated the provisions which are stipulated under the Land Acquisition Act. Kartar Singh, a farmer, said, "The government in 2018, in a notification issued in the newspaper Hari Bhoomi, declared the move to acquire our lands. Not everyone had access to that notification and when we found out, we came to the collectorate. This is when the government brushed all responsibility off."
The farmers are alleging that their land is being taken away without their consent or any discussion, even as the Land Acquisition Act clearly stipulates that the consent of 80% of the farmers or stakeholders has to be obtained. Through their protest, the farmers are demanding fair and equal compensation for the land acquired. Jagmal Gujar said, "Sarkar kehti hai ki sabko ek saath leke chalenge ye. Kaisa saath hai? (The government says that they want to take everyone along. What kind of equality is this?)"
Also read: Thousands of Sugarcane Farmers Launch Agitation Against Haryana Govt over Non-payment of Dues
According to the notification, some farmers whose lands are lining up directly with the highways are to receive a compensation of approximately Rs 1 crore, while others will get a compensation of any amount between Rs 17 lakh and Rs 1 crore. The farmers demanding same compensation for all said that the decision to fix the rate lies with the collectorate and is riddled with discrepancy.
They added, "According to the provisions of the Act, we are to be paid four times the market price of the land, but when one calculates the compensation, it becomes clear that it is less than twice the market rate."
The struggle led by AIKS has been on for over 50 days now. Amidst this, the farmers are also incurring serious losses as they neglect their families and their fields. Dilip Singh said, "Our fields are getting destroyed; I come here anxious everyday. The future of my children is at stake."
The same anxieties are shared by other farmers in the state who make up about 80% of the population. Not just in Narnaul, protests are taking place across the state. Inder Singh of the AIKS said, “In Dadri, Khadkhada, Quila Zafargarh, Ambala, the protests are taking place as no compensation was paid to the sugarcane farmers, arrears are accumulating through Narendra Modi’s Fasal Bima Yojana among many other reasons. In the middle of these protests, farmers have even died. Their dead bodies have been kept by their families to wake up the state from its slumber. This government is adopting policies that are killing the farmers. The Modi government has promised to double farmer’s incomes by 2022, but its policies are cracking a whip on the existing means of livelihood of the farmers.”
The farmers from Narnaul have said that they will intensify their agitation and it can take the shape of a statewide agitation involving road and railway blockade. The farmers have also warned the Khattar government of repercussions of its anti-farmer approach in the upcoming elections.
Also read: ‘Government Is Paying Peanuts for Farmers’ Lands’