Hundreds of farmers from Dadri in Ghaziabad district in Uttar Pradesh whose land had been acquired for building the gas-based Reliance power project staged a dharna in Lucknow on Friday in protest against what they alleged as the “forceful acquisition of fertile land.” They have demanded that the land should be returned to them and an alternative site in Dadri be allotted for the mega power project.
About 2500 acres had been acquired for the power project and the notification for the same had been issued by the Samajwadi Party regime of Mulayam Singh in 2004. "The fertile land belonged to about thousand farmers’ families in seven villages of Dadri who were dependent on it for their livelihood; they have been robbed off their daily bread", claimed Yudhishtar Singh Sisodia, the General Secretary of Maharana Sangram Singh Kisan Kalyan Samiti, Dadri. Sisodia claimed that the affected farmers were even prepared to lay down their lives for getting the land back.
Farmers’ representatives said the acquired land’s fertility was attributed to its location. Situated between the Ganga and the Yamuna (called "Doab", or the land between two rivers), the land fell within the National Capital Region (NCR) where multiple cropping pattern is followed.
Much of the dispute centred around the compensation announced for the farmers, which they claim was inadequate. Vinod Singh, president of Kisan Manch said the compensation had been fixed at the rate of Rs. 135 per square metre, whereas the current market rate of land in Greater Noida phase 2 was Rs. 15000 per square metre. "About 300 to 400 acres of nazul land was available in Dadri, which can be allotted for the power plant", said Singh.
The Kisan Kalyan Samiti has alleged that hundreds of farmers were booked under fake cases by the previous regime when they protested against the move to acquire their land.
Agitation by the farmers and their representative organisations has been going on in Dadri ever since the Mulayam Singh Government announced its decision to set up the mega power project. Prior to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2007, the farmers’ protest was spearheaded by former Prime Minister VP Singh and the Jan Morcha led by its then president, cine actor, Raj Babbar. Later, the reins of the agitation were taken over by Kisan Manch and sundry other farmers’ organisations.
A spokesperson of Reliance Power Limited, the promoters of the project, said that the corporate rivals of the company were constantly working against the Dadri project by attempting to instigate the local people for agitation and disrupting the harmony of the State. When contacted by The Hindu, the RPL spokesman said the same elements were also sponsoring frivolous litigations in a surrogate manner. “We have full knowledge of these elements and will make the information public at an appropriate time", the spokesperson added.
Condemning such "motivated" acts, the RPL spokesperson added that the company was fully committed to set up the 8000 megawatt gas based project with an investment of Rs. 40,000 crore.