RGTIL pipeline spurs controversy over ‘inadequate' compensation to farmers
A gas pipeline passing through farm lands in several villages at Medchal and Shameerpet has become a source of discord between families of 250 farmers, who own the land, and Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure Limited (RGTIL).
The controversy is over the alleged inadequate compensation to farmers by RGTIL, whose gas pipeline is passing through the ‘highly commercial' farmlands of the farmers. The gas is being supplied to Gujarat from Kakinada by RGTIL, traversing close to 1,300 kilometres.
In several villages, RGTIL has put up a series of signposts warning farmers not to take up construction work or farming activity. In case they decided to plant a tree or dig a well, then they are liable for punitive action. Anger and frustration over RGTIL among the farmers and their families in these villages is palpable.
While RGTIL authorities maintain due diligence was done before distributing compensation, farmers have an entirely different tale to tell. The villagers here feel cheated and believe that the State Government gave a free hand to RGTIL. On its part, RGTIL did not take them into confidence and compensate them adequately, villagers point out.
The farmers here assert that they were kept in dark by local Tahsildars and RGTIL officials on ‘fine print' involved in the agreements. Farmers maintain that they did not anticipate a situation wherein there commercially viable lands would be rendered useless for the lifetime.
“It's like a 100 feet road bisecting my farm land into two halves. I can't construct any building, plant trees or build a water tank. It's impossible to rent out the land for commercial purpose due to the pipeline. My hands are tied,” complains Purushottam Reddy, a farmer of Girmapur village in Rangareddy district. He lost one acre of his farm land.
There are 250 such families, who complain that they were not compensated adequately. All of them, residing in Girmapur, Goudavelly, Pudur, Uddamarri, Yakutpur, Rudrasipalli and other villages of Shameerpet and Dundigal mandals, share a similar tale.
Despite these allegations, RGTIL authorities said that acquiring of farmlands for the pipeline was done by the book. “We gave farmers enough time to raise objections in 2002. The compensation was based on the existing market value of the land during that time. We followed these rules, which are laid out in the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines Act of 1962. We coordinated with the local Tahsildars to hammer out agreements,” said Butcha Reddy of RGTIL, the competent authority who handled the compensation.
The villagers point out that there was no parity while doling out compensation. “I have lost two acres of farm land. And they paid me Rs. 22,000 towards compensation. The land owner nearby, who went to court on this issue, received close to Rs. 15 lakh for one acre. I don't have resources for a legal battle. Politicians and authorities did not help us,” rues Mallesh, another farmer at Goudavelly village.
“Exhaustive discussions on compensations at Grama Sabhas were not done and there was no transparency. The villagers were gullible and RGTIL took full advantage. On an average, each villager lost anywhere between 1 to 2 acre of their farm land and in turn received only Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 35,000 as compensation,” says Malla Reddy, president of BJP unit of Ranga Reddy district.