Home >politics >policy >Amaravati: farmers refuse to give up land in two villages

Hyderabad: On 12 January, farmers began gathering at noon at Penumaka village, about 12km from Vijayawada, in Andhra Pradesh. After several of them had come together, all of them then went further into the fields nearby to congregate and hold a meeting on the issue of their lands being acquired by the state government for upcoming capital Amaravati.

Last week’s meeting was significant, as more than fifty of the farmers from the village had approached the High Court of Judicature for the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana earlier and managed to get an interim stay order on the process. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for 19 January.

While over 33,000 of the roughly 36,000 acres of farmland required for Amaravati have been acquired by the AP government through its land-pooling scheme, Penumaka and nearby Undavalli are the only two villages out of 29 where farmers are unwilling to give up their lands, forcing the government to take the legal route by invoking the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013.

Farmers argue that their villages, which are in Guntur district, have very fertile lands and that they see no point in accepting the benefits being offered by the state in return for giving up their land.

“We get water here at just 20 feet under the ground. Ours is one of the greenest multi-crop farmlands in the state. So why should we give it up?" said K. Shiva Reddy, 62, a land-owning farmer from Penumaka who attended the 12 January meeting. Reddy, who owns six acres of land, added fruit and vegetable crops from his village fetch good prices on the market.

His views were echoed by A. Sambi Reddy, 60, a tenant farmer, who pointed out that in spite of an investment of over Rs60,000 per acre in Penumaka, he easily makes profits every year with his farm produce. Both said the village usually has a good yield of bananas, ladies’ fingers, turmeric, maize, etc.

The two villages account for most of the remaining land that has to be acquired by the AP Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), the body overseeing the building of Amaravati, said a CRDA official, who requested not to be identified.

Like Sambi and Shiva Reddy, a 32-year-old land-owning farmer from Undavalli village Dattu Balaji Reddy, has no need for the CRDA’s offer of 1,000 sq. ft of residential land and 250-450 sq. ft of commercial land in the new capital to those who give up their farms under the land-pooling scheme. Neither does he want the additional financial compensation ranging from Rs30,000 per acre (of dry land) to Rs50,000 per acre (fertile land) per year for 10 years, (with 10% appreciation every year).

“Apart from the fertile farms here, the market value of land in Penumaka and Undavalli is very high because of their proximity to Vijayawada. An acre of land here fetches more than Rs2 crore today," Balaji Reddy said, just before the meeting on 12 January. He claimed that farmers had approached the high court last year after the state government failed to conduct the environmental assessment impact and follow other stipulations of the LARR 2013 Act.

When asked about the issue, the CRDA official said that about half of the farmers in both villages have already given up their lands under the land-pooling scheme for Amaravati, adding the due process will be followed as per the LARR 2013 Act for the rest.

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