The Hindu Explains: Registering protest, from Catalonia to Rajasthan

Rajasthan’s Nindar, where farmers launched a desperate protest against land acquisition

Novel stir: A file photo of farmers sitting in pits at Nindar village in protest against the forced aquisition of their land by the Jaipur Development Authority.   | Photo Credit: PTI

An unusual demonstration by farmers, who dug pits and trenches and buried themselves waist-deep in the earth, to protest against land acquisition by the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) for a housing project at Nindar, 20 km from the capital, drew the media’s attention in October and made political leaders sit up and take notice of the peasants’ plight. The unique protest generated immense public sympathy and forced the government to hold talks with the farmers.

What did landowners object?

The Rajasthan government had acquired 1,350 bighas of land at Nindar in several stages since 2010 for a plush housing project, despite the land owners refusing to accept compensation. The farmers wanted to save their land from forcible acquisition, saying the JDA’s survey was faulty and the compensation was much below market prices. After some farmers lost court battle, they surrendered 283 bighas. Nearly 5,000 families would have been affected. However, the JDA insisted on getting possession of the entire 1,350 bighas, including 150 bighas of the mandir maafi (exempted for temples) land for which it deposited ₹60 crore in the court as compensation. There are houses built on the mandir maafi land and villagers live there. The JDA’s project was touted as its biggest scheme with 6,000 houses and residential plots.

Rajasthan’s Nindar, where farmers launched a desperate protest against land acquisition
 

What is the land policy?

Land acquisition in the State is governed by a policy framed in April 2016 under the Central law, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The policy’s emphasis is on conducting negotiations with landowners and reaching consensus on compensation and rehabilitation by the Collector, while taking into consideration the land’s existing market value. Separately, the State government has enacted a Land Pooling Schemes Act to consolidate small landholdings for the areas declared special investment regions. The land acquisition at Nindar was the first instance of forcible takeover of farmland with the payment of inadequate compensation, primarily because the land was acquired in several stages, while compensation was offered at the rates prevailing in 2010. Instances of land acquisition for alleged mining by private companies have been reported in the past and some villagers in Bhilwara district took the matter to the High Court in 2013, contending that the State Land Revenue Act entitled farmers to negotiations and the best price in lieu of the rights of agricultural land allotted for mining purposes.

Why did farmers bury themselves?

Protesters decided to intensify their agitation when they did not get a response from the government and came up with the novel idea of Zameen Samadhi Satyagraha. On October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the farmers dug pits and buried themselves waist-deep in a “non-violent method” of showing their anger at the government. Forty-year-old Nagendra Singh Shekhawat led the agitation as convener of the Nindar Bachao Yuva Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.

What lies ahead?

The State government and JDA officers did not respond initially. When the protesters did not budge and even celebrated festivals such as Karva Chauth and Deepavali at the site despite dehydration and skin infection, sympathy among the residents of the nearby Vidyadhar Nagar increased and Congress leaders Sachin Pilot and C.P. Joshi visited them to express solidarity. As public pressure mounted, the BJP government invited the farmers for talks. After prolonged negotiations, the JDA agreed to a fresh survey, in which all structures, tubewells and fruit-bearing trees would be included. The Sangharsh Samiti called off the agitation on October 31.

The farmers are hopeful that the new survey will reflect the ground situation and ensure better compensation, against the previous assessment which marked several agricultural fields as barren and showed hamlets as vacant land. Dr. Shekhawat says the farmers are keeping their options open while looking forward to the findings of the survey, for which new teams have been appointed by the JDA.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 5:47:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rajasthans-nindar-where-farmers-launched-a-desperate-protest-against-land-acquisition/article19982535.ece

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