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Aligarh farmers' protest is in disarray

August 17, 2010 21:59 IST

Even after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's special envoy Shashank Shekhar Singh struck a midnight deal with protesting farmers in Aligarh, sharp divisions have developed among the agitators on the issue of enhanced compensation for their land acquired to build the Noida-Agra Yamuna expressway.

The truce signed by popular farmer leader Ram Babu Kathelia, who was taken into police custody on the eve of the Independence Day, has been flatly turned down by a large chunk of the protestors, who were unwilling to accept a compensation at a lower rate than what was paid to affected farmers in Greater Noida.

"There was still a lot of difference between the compensation being offered here and that paid to owners of agricultural land in Greater Noida," a farmers' representative told media persons in Tappal village in Aligarh district where police firing at the agitators on August 14 left three dead.

"Nothing short of parity with the compensation rate paid in Greater Noida, would satisfy us; after all our village is barely 200 metres away from the boundary of Greater Noida where nearly double the rate was being paid to the farmers," he pointed out.

Meanwhile, farmers in Agra too have begun to echo the demand for parity with Greater Noida farmers. A group of farmers in villages bordering Aligarh and Mathura districts staged a protest demonstration, However, there were no reports of violence so far.

Kathelia, who had been kept under detention for two days, was in for a shock when his own comrades told him in no uncertain terms that they were not agreeable to the deal that was struck between him and Mayawati's special envoy and state cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh.

Asked what course he would take under the circumstances, Kathelia told media persons in Tappal, "I am going to hold another meeting of our action committee on Wednesday and we will then take the final call."

Back in Lucknow, the division of farmers on the issue has become a cause of serious worry for the Mayawati government that was busy taking credit for resolving the crisis.

Holed up in closed-door confabulations, none of the concerned ministers nor any senior bureaucrat in the chief minister's office was available for comment.

It may be recalled that as against the earlier offer of Rs 449 per sq metre, affected farmers were given a revised offer of Rs 570 per sq metre. An additional compensation was promised in case of value addition to the land such as crop, trees or water facility.

The chief minister had also decided to enhance the ex gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to each those killed in the violence to Rs 10 lakh and  Rs 2 lakhs to each of the injured.

The 165-km long Expressway, which is expected to reduce the driving time between New Delhi and Agra to just about 90 minutes, will pass through the districts of Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar (Hathras) and Mathura , involved of acquisition of land  in as many as  115 villages.

A total of 2,500 hectare is to be acquired for the development of the expressway -- 500 hectares each in Noida, Aligarh and Agra and 1,000 hectares in Gautam Buddha Nagar.

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow