Jewar’s bumpy ride on the runway to development
Concerns over compensation, jobs and security cloud the small town ahead of the the PM’s inauguration of the international airport project
The nondescript town of Jewar, 100 kms from Delhi, is set to find a place on the world map as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday will lay the foundation stone of an international airport that would be the largest in Asia and the fourth largest in the world. The first phase, built on 1,334 hectares of land, is expected to be completed by 2024 when one runway would become operational.
However, for Hansraj, a resident of Rohi village, the immediate concern is what will he do with his eight cows if he decides to resettle in Jewar Bangar, a township being developed by the government for around 3,000 families of six villages whose land has been acquired under the Land Acquisition Act. “How will I tend them in the 50 square metre plot that I would get,” asked Hansraj who tills one bigha of land. He is among around 500 farmers out of around 9,000 farmers who have yet to accept the compensation deposited in the treasury by the government.
There are others like Pramod Kumar from Dayanatpur village who has 20 bighas of land and feels that farmers were cheated by the government when the land use was changed from rural to urban to cut down on the compensation. “The officials haven’t followed the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act properly. Being in a rural area, we deserve compensation four times the circle rate, but by changing the land use from rural to urban, the government has given us only twice the circle rate. Our petition is pending in the Allahabad High Court and we expect the PM to take note of our demand,” said Mr Kumar.
He argued that they have been given compensation at the rate of ₹2,300 per square metre while the circle rate at Pari Chowk in Greater Noida is ₹50,000 per square metre. “If we have been declared urban, we should get the rates prevailing in the neighbouring urban areas. That’s why we approached the Court.”
Ravinder Kumar from Rohi agreed with Mr Kumar but he has taken the compensation and the plot. “I have received ₹2.5 crore for 12 bighas of land. I am building a three-storey house in the township but I could have got more,” he said. Asked if he is being greedy as the circle rate was around ₹4-5 lakh per bighas before the project got the green signal, he said it was his right as he was being uprooted from his ancestral land and knew nothing other than farming.
Neeraj Kumar from Rohera village has also chosen to wait. “There is social pressure from those who have opted to take the compensation but now I have heard officials are targeting those who didn’t accept their offer earlier. They ask for a cut in our money lying with the tribunal,” he alleged.
A senior official associated with the acquisition process said as per the Land Acquisition Act, the permission of 70% of farmers was necessary. “In the beginning, only 4 farmers agreed but when the U.P. Chief Minister agreed to give ₹500 per square metre over the rate (₹1.800) the farmers were entitled to, more than 72% agreed,” he said, reminding the Allahabad High Court had thrown out petitions asking for more compensation in the past.
Jewar MLA Dhirendra Singh, who is known in the region as somebody who gets the work done, said BJP was known for “ushering in development” and on Wednesday the region would “celebrate the PM’s visit as a festival.”
“We have ensured full transparency in paying the compensation and ensuring rehabilitation and resettlement. As the project is huge and is expected to be completed in record time, there could be some minor flaws or misunderstanding which we will work out soon with officials,” he said.
The government promises the project would provide one lakh jobs but Kalyan Singh, secretary of SSDGD College in Jewar said most have opted to take a one-time payment of ₹5,00,000 instead of waiting for the elusive job. “They don’t know what kind of job will come their way and what skills do they have to do those jobs.” The youth, he said, are picking up shauq (cravings) and aib ( bad habits) because of the quick money they have made.
Pankaj Parashar, a senior Hindi journalist who is doing a Ph.D. on rehabilitation and resettlement associated with the project said the international airport will change the face of the region.
“Jewar was one of the most backward areas of the region. Till a few years back there was no direct road from Noida to Jewar and people had to take a detour either via Bulandshahr or Palwal to reach there. In one or two villages there was no electricity,” Mr Parashar adding that in a few years the entire NCR would inevitably change into an urban landscape so there was no point in losing out on farming land and farmhands.
“Development has definitely reached the doorsteps of the villages here, now it is up to the people how they use the compensation money. The airport has been such a long-standing demand that many thought that it would not fructify in their lifetime. Now that it is, they are not being able to process the new reality.”
Arvind Chaudhary, a pro-BJP pradhan of Neemka village admitted there were bottlenecks but added people have to make “sacrifices for change, for development.”
“The government can’t do everything. We know that now we have to buy wheat from the market but we hope that our future generation will have a better life. If even 1% of the project cost reaches us, our lives will change.” When asked what work he expects the villagers to get from the new project. Mr Chaudhary said, “Fitters, security guards, computer operators, property dealers...”