In Punjab’s Kapurthala district, discontent is palpable among farmers who have been protesting for five days against the land acquisition by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for setting up of Delhi-Katra Expressway and Jamnagar Expressway projects.
The protesting farmers, under the banner of Kisan Sangharsh Committee (KSC), told NewsClick that NHAI’s proposal to acquire the agricultural land for the expressway project can prove to be detrimental to them as they will be displaced without sufficient compensation.
The protestors said that while private surveys are being conducted, no rehabilitation plan has been proposed for families who will be affected by the project. “The government wants to acquire land from farmers at low rates to benefit industrialists, but what about us? Thousands of families will be uprooted. There has been no alternative plan for the displaced families.” said KSC’s state chief, Sukhdev Singh Dhillon.
The farmers are protesting majorly for two reasons – first, that the expressway will cut through the centre of their landholdings leaving behind small patches on either side, which will largely be useless; second, the compensation provided by the government is insufficient.
“For the lands acquired in 2013-14, people were given compensation of around 1-1.5 crore per acre. Now, they are offering us compensation of 9.7 lakh per acre. Can you believe that? They are looting our land. With measly compensation and no land in hand, unemployment would increase,” said Dhillon.
Prabdhyal Singh, District president of KSC from Kapurthala, accused the government of playing at the hands of the corporates. “The government recently reduced collector rates so that they can convince the masses that the compensation given to us is sufficient. All this to benefit the corporates. This is done under proper planning. We will not give an inch of our land.”
As per the farmers’ union, the expressway would pass through 11 districts including Patiala, Sangrur, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Bathinda, Kapurthala, and Gurdaspur among others, acquiring around 16,000 acre of land – majority of it farm land – which would include land of 35 villages from Jalandhar and 37 villages from Kapurthala.
The protesting farmers who have issued memorandums and have met several officials in the past to express their concerns, have now entered active protest after they were given no response from the administration. The farmers are showing no sign of turning back.
Meanwhile, the assembly of protesting farmers at different sites within Punjab has put the state government in a tight spot in the backdrop of a massive protest ongoing at the Haryana–Delhi borders against the Centre’s farm laws and attracting worldwide attention to the challenges faced by farmers in India. However, official sources told NewsClick that the government is discussing the matter related to low compensation.
Meanwhile, the affected farmers are resolved to intensify their protests in the coming days. Recently, the farmers in Bathinda uprooted the concreted pillars installed to demarcate the land to be acquired. “Until our demands are not met, we will not let anyone enter our land and fields. We will gherao Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Patiala on January 15,” said Prabdhyal Singh.
Sources told NewsClick that chances are that the protest is capable of snowballing into a major controversy considering the rising tempers of farmers who have come out in the streets to protest against the proposed projects.
The protesting farmers also extended their solidarity with ongoing protest against the three farm laws.
NewsClick tried to reach Kapurthala DC Deepti Uppal but could not get through. This story will be updated when the comment is received.