In the outskirts of North-West Delhi, a farming village that has metamorphosed into a small town is Kanjhawala where a group of old farmers have been continually sitting on a dharna for six years, demanding back their land, which was acquired by the government for industrial use. As another election approaches, they are least enthused as so far they feel being ignored by the political ilk.
“We do not really depend on these politicians to solve any of our issues, we are not that simple. We will be going to court and renewing our agitation. A bit of land inside the wall is Rs. 50,000 and the same land outside of the wall is worth a crore,” says Raj Sing Dabas, a 77 year-old farmer who spends his days smoking a hookah and going through legal documents.
“According to the new Land Acquisition Act, if the government has not physically used the land for its purposes, then they have to give it back. We know these things, it is not like before where everyone felt helpless before a government order,” he added, while explaining how there were still several among them who had not touched the total Rs. 49 lakhs which comprised the compensation as well as the rehabilitation fees.
Kanjhawala, along with neighbouring Karala, Sultanpur Dabas, Tikri Kalan and Tikri Khurd was declared barren while the government made its acquisition of around 250 acres of farmland, which was boarded up but is still cultivated by the farmers.
“The government acquired the land saying it is barren but the land is green and produces an average 52 quintals of crop for every two acres. In my last crop, I got 20 quintals of bajra (millet), dal (pulses) and till (sesame seeds). How is this barren?” questioned Baljeet Singh, as he sits in protest with a smattering of farmers from all the villages whose land was acquired.
“In fact, even the Rs. 49 lakh was given after different stages of agitation, including dharnas for many days outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office as well as Delhi Assembly after which the acquisition rate was increased,” he added.
The farmers said that they were ready to give the government back its money. “One acre is now worth around Rs. 6 crores, and it is not barren. We want it back,” he added.
However, there are some who have given up altogether and want only the promised plot adjoining their land. Raghubir Singh Dabas, a 66-year-old retired headmaster is one such farmer, but he has little hope in the politicians. “We have knocked on all the politicians’ doors but even our local MP Krishna Tirath fails to identify us. She came here a week ago promising the same thing she promised before,” he said, adding that none of the others had even bothered with their village.
Many in the village felt BJP’s Udit Raj was an outsider and the Aam Aadmi Party was not something worth talking about.