Atiq Khan

RAE BARELI: The Mayawati government’s decision on the rail coach factory in Lalganj has not gone down well with the villagers for whom the unit would have opened up avenues of employment, in addition to the handy compensation they would have got for their land. The site of the factory is about five km. from Lalganj town on the Rae Bareli-Kanpur road.

Girdhari Singh of Behta Kalan village rued the fact that thousands have been deprived of jobs. Dismissing the State government’s claim that the farmers were opposed to the factory, Mr. Singh said on the contrary the farmers were happy that the rail unit was to come up in Lalganj. He alleged that the farmers were forced by officials to sign a document that they were opposed to the factory and that there would be bloodshed and violence if it came up. “We want development of the area,” Mr. Singh said.

Villagers here told The Hindu that the land of about 30 villages that was to have been acquired for the coach factory was ‘usar’ and unfit for agricultural use. Amit Dwivedi of the Datauli gram sabha said the local leaders of the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party sided with the district administration to browbeat the villagers. “A sum of Rs. 10 lakh was offered for a bigha of land on the condition that they gave in writing that they did not want the rail coach factory,” Dwivedi alleged.

The development of the backward area, which comes under the Rae Bareli parliamentary constituency of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was seen as a means of ending their miseries. The Bahujan Samaj Party government’s role, in this case, was considered harmful to the cause of development.

Lal Khan of Purai gram sabha, whose land had been acquired for the factory, said the farmers have been denied the opportunity of getting a compensation of Rs. 2-3 lakh for one bigha of land unfit for agricultural use.

Dwarka Prasad Shukla of Tiwaripur Chhota village accused Chief Minister Mayawati of sounding the death knell for the unemployed persons of the area.

The protest against the State government’s move seemed to cut across caste and party lines, and marginal and big farmers. A Dalit BSP worker, Phulmati of Deepamau village, who would have got a sizeable amount of compensation for his land, threatened to go on a fast-unto-death if the unit was stalled. Apart from compensation her family would have been assured of employment, Phulmati added.

Following the protest launched by Congress workers in Lalganj and Rae Bareli, cases were lodged by the district police against about 35 Congressmen, including the Congress MLA from Sareni, Ashok Singh and the Congress MLA from Sataon, Shiv Ganesh Lodhi.