‘Gram panchayat didn’t take our permission or offer compensation’

Farmers in Yellur of Belgaum taluk are up in arms against the gram panchayat for constructing road through their rich agricultural fields. According to them, the gram panchayat took up the work under the influence of Abhay Patil, BJP MLA representing the Belgaum South Assembly constituency, much against the wishes of the growers.

The farmers forced the contractor to halt work on Tuesday and warned the gram panchayat that they would fight tooth and nail against the its “unjust and anti-farmer” activities under the pretext of development.

Caught off-guard

The farmers, who were caught unawares on Sunday when they saw an earthmover clearing standing crops on the farmland to prepare base for the road, staged an angry protest outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office under the banner of Shetkari Bachao Samiti, and demanded that the work to construct 4 km of road through the fields be dropped and farmers be compensated immediately for the loss of standing crops.

The gram panchayat had proposed to lay the road from Yarmal to Yellur and awarded the contract work to an influential contractor.

Speaking on behalf of the affected farmers, Raju Marve alleged that the gram panchayat had coerced its decision under pressure from the MLA, even though there was no need to lay a road through the agricultural fields. He said the farmers had been cultivating Belgaum Basmati paddy and other crops throughout the year. A majority of the farmers had small or marginal holdings and would lose their source of livelihood if roadwork continued.

No compensation

He said the panchayat had neither acquired the farmland nor paid compensation, but taken up construction work without the consent of growers.

A promise

Gram panchayat members promised the farmers that a meeting would be convened to discuss the issue. However, the samiti members made it clear that they would not allow construction of road through the farmland and urged the gram panchayat to drop the project.