“I don’t know where he is and we are really concerned about him” says farmer’s brother

Gajanan Ghatage, the farmer from Khursapar (Bela) village near Nagpur in Vidarbha, whom India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Arvind Kejriwal named in his press conference went missing on Thursday from his village.

“He has not come to home since yesterday” said Durga Ghatage, wife of Gajanan Ghatage.

But according to Sarathi Kamble, a Dalit farmer of Bela village whose 39-acre land was taken for the Vadgaon dam, “Gajanan was last seen with Samay Bansod and Nana Menjhokhe, both of them working in the Purti factory (the factory owned by BJP president Nitin Gadkari).”

Arvind Kejriwal accused that Nitin Gadkari’s NGO and factories were given agriculture land acquired for dam construction on lease instead of returning back the land to the farmers.

Gajanan Ghatage’s brother Vishvanath Ghatage confirmed the allegations and expressed apprehension about his brothers wellbeing. “I don’t know where he is and we are really concerned about him” said Mr. Vishvnath Ghatage.”

On the land which was given on lease to Nitin Gadkari’s company, Vishvanath Ghatage said, “yes it’s true and that land belongs to us. Eighty seven acres of land of my family was acquired for the dam construction. We were given a meager Rs.5,000 per acre. But 17 acres was not utilised for the dam construction so that land should be returned to us. But in 2008, this land was leased out to Nitin Gadkari’s company.”

Mr. Vishvnath Ghatage says that he carries no ill will against Mr. Gadkari but asked “how can the irrigation department lease out our land without our permission.”

According to Vishvanath Ghatage, there are four more families from Bela village whose land was acquired by the irrigation department but the unused land was leased out to Gadkari’s company. Other farmers are Agrawal, Kashyap, Moreshwar and Anandrao Kamble and Madhavrao Bhagat.

Mr..Agrawal is dead, according to the villagers.

Mr. Kashayp, whose family stays in Nagpur city, could not be contacted but Kamble and Bhagat families are demanding their land back.

‘Return back our land’

“Our 39-acre of land was acquired for the dam at the price of Rs.4, 000 per acre. Out of which around 24 acre was not used. But the land was never returned to our family “says Anandrao Kamble.

“All that land was used for Gadkari’s company construction and we are landless now “says Sarathi Kamble , son of Moreshwer Kamble, who also works as the supervisor in Gadkari’s factory near Bela “as a compensation for their acquired land.”

According Sachin Bhagat, son of Madhavrao Bhagat, around nine acres of land belonging to Bhagat family was acquired for the dam construction but it was never used.

“The land is now under our control and we cultivate it but when we wanted to pay the land tax for it, we were told that the land has been leased out to the Purti Limited and they are paying the tax for it” said Mr. Sachin Bhagat.

When asked if he or his family was threatened or coerced to give up the land Mr. Sachin Bhagat said “no, such things haven’t happened but we have made many applications to the Irrigation department to return our land to us, but still they haven’t acted on it.”

But Mr. Vishvnath Ghatage says that some people from Purti Limited did come to acquire land owned by Gajanan and he resisted them.

Bhagat, Kamble and Ghatage families want their land returned back to them and are ready to pay the amount of compensation which was given to them when their land was acquired for the construction of dam.

“We thought that the dam will provide water facilities to the farmers of this area but it seems to have been built up for some vested interests and this is the reason we want our land back” said Mr. Vishvanath Ghatage.