Parsaul: Savita Singh has not cooked anything for the past two days. She is worried about her husband, who disappeared two days ago, and her two children, who have been sent away to relatives in a distant village, fearing visits by the police to quell protests over land acquisition to build a motorway.
Parsaul village in Gautam Buddh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh looks deserted, with all men and boys on the run from the law.
The Uttar Pradesh government deployed additional police forces after two policemen and two farmers were killed in clashes during the weekend near the suburb of Noida, on the eastern outskirts of New Delhi.
Farmers in Bhatta and Parsaul villages are demanding greater compensation for land earmarked for a new motorway to the city of the Taj Mahal. The violence that began in Noida hit other cities, including Agra and Aligarh, on Sunday.
The 165km, six-lane Yamuna Expressway being constructed by Jaypee Infratech Ltd, a unit of India’s biggest builder of dams, is due to be completed by October. The government says the motorway will promote economic development and cut about two hours off the current 5-hour trip between New Delhi and the tourist hub of Agra.
Although the state government said 175 hectares were acquired in Bhatta for Rs 120 crore and 260 hectares in Parsaul for Rs 180 crore, villagers said they have not been paid adequate compensation and the government has colluded with developers. The government has denied the allegations.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and politically crucial state as it sends 80 lawmakers to the Lok Sabha, will go to the polls in 2012. Almost all opposition parties are trying to capitalize on the current resentment against the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party government.
Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh and his followers were stopped by the police from entering Bhatta and Parsaul. Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajnath Singh and Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav were detained by the police along with supporters after they attempted to reach the site of the clashes on Monday, the PTI reported.
The villagers, on their part, said they want fair compensation.
“What we want is fair compensation and respectable treatment,” said Dhiraj Singh, 80. “The villagers have been agitating for the last four months. Not a single government representative have bothered to address our grievances.”
Singh said real estate agents were selling the acquired properties at Rs 60 lakh an acre after the government paid Rs 35 lakh per acre to the farmers.
“The chief minister should treat the farmers with respect,” said V.M. Singh, a farmer and an activist. “The farmers across the state want the government to come up with a constructive policy for acquiring land.”
Villagers complain that instead of hearing their grievances, the state government used force to suppress the agitation.
“We all are scared here. The police has even scared the kids,” said Seetho, a resident of Parsaul who had to part with more than half an acre of land. “We have lost the land and now we have to go through this trauma.”
Confrontations between farmers and businesses trying to secure land have sparked rioting and stalled more than $100 billion (Rs 4.47 trilion today) of projects across India, according to a 2009 report by industry lobby group Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
This includes the country’s largest proposed foreign investment by Posco, South Korea’s biggest steelmaker, to build a $12 billion plant in Orissa.
The government is considering introducing a Bill in Parliament that would change colonial-era laws that allow state administrations to acquire land on behalf of industry, in an attempt to ease the confrontations.
Under the provisions of the new Bill, still under discussion, companies would have to agree terms with farmers for at least 70% of the land they need before asking authorities for help with the rest.
The proposals provide specific guidelines for valuing land and require a social impact study before evictions.
Bloomberg, AFP and PTI contributed to this story.