“We are withdrawing consent as they misled us. The patwari told my wife she would get four times the circle rate as compensation,” said Mahipal Singh, 53, a farmer who has given consent for one bhiga of his land to be acquired to build the Jewar Airport in Uttar Pradesh.
Brahm Sharma, 54, whose 22 bhigas of land will be acquired, said his family gave consent too because they thought they would get four times the circle rate as compensation. Promod Kumar, whose 35-40 bhigas of land will be acquired, said officials misled his wife into believing she would get more money.
After the UP government announced they had already got the 70 percent consent needed under the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, 300 farmers, including Mahipal, Brahm and Promod, have withdrawn their consent owing to a lack of clarity about the compensation rates.
But according to the 2013 Act, there are no provisions to withdraw consent if it is secured after proper disclosure of compensation and rehabilitation.
Different Compensation Rates on Consent Forms
The Quint visited Jewar district where land from six villages – Rohi, Dayanatpur, Kishorpur, Parohi, Ranhera and Banwari Bas – will be acquired for the first phase of building the Jewar airport. Ever since the process of collecting consent began on 18 August 2018, there has been an atmosphere of confusion and anger against the Rs 15,000-20,000 crore project.
Chief of the Jewar Airport Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Ajay Pratap Singh, who is sitting on an indefinite protest in the Shiv Mandir in Dayanatpura village, said, “We want development and we want the airport to be built here. But the consent of the farmers on forms has been taken incorrectly.”
The Quint got access to consent forms where the ‘Bhumi ka Pratikaar,’ (compensation of land) is mentioned. This is the first form.
When the first form was introduced in the camps set up to take consent, it was for Rs 1,806 per square metre, which is double the circle rate. Abhay Pratap Singh, Jewar Airport officer in-charge, said, “When Rs 1,806 was given per square metre, very few people came forward to give consent. A few days after, an additional Rs 500 was added from the ‘goodwill of the UP government’ which drove people to give their approval.”
This is when the second form came up. On this, the original compensation of Rs 1,800 was struck off with a pen and had alternate compensations written above and below it.
The first option read Rs 2,300 per square metre (Rs 1,800 + Rs 500) + Vyavasthapana (management) + Naukri (job). This was meant for those who were displaced.
The second read Rs 2,500 per square metre + Naukri. This was meant for those who are giving up their agricultural land but are not being displaced.
“There was a lot of confusion once farmers saw these forms. While many signed it seeing the Rs 500 increase, there were many others like me who insisted they didn’t want to agree on a compensation amount,” Harvinder Singh from Dayantpura said. He also added that the Rs 2,500 option was eventually removed from subsequent forms handed out by the authorities.
The Quint met Additional District Magistrate (land and acquisition) Gautam Budhh Nagar, Balram Singh, who said, “There was some confusion that happened. I do not know about it. After I took charge as ADM less than a month ago the rate has consistently been Rs 2,300 only.”
Representing those who want to withdraw consent is lawyer Harcharan Lal Sharma who The Quint met in old Jewar court house.
“Farmers are saying they gave consent only to build the airport. However, it was after giving consent that farmers got to know through others that they had not only consented, but agreed to compensation as well. In some cases, it was Rs 1,800 per square metre, Rs 2,300 per square meter, Rs 2,500 per square metre. In all these cases, around 300 farmers want to take their consent back,” Sharma told The Quint.
This is when a third form came out. While the from included all the details as needed under law, farmers insist there was no compensation mentioned on the other side of these forms. Harvinder Singh, a farmer from Jewar, said he signed and many others like him gave their consent on these forms.
“We signed only cause we didn’t want the Jewar airport to be built elsewhere. We want the development associated with it. But we aren’t okay with the compensation amount agreed upon. So these forms came which did not mention the compensation amount,” Harvinder said.
However, Abhay Pratap Singh insists that the 70 percent of farmers who gave their consent did so knowingly for the Rs 2,300 option. “We have video footage of these camps. People will say what they are saying, but everyone has consented on the compensation amount. They do hope it will increase though,” he said. The ADM, Balram Singh, also concurred. “This is incorrect. They all knew. They signed after going through the details,” he said.
There are two kinds of farmers in Jewar currently. Ones who are withdrawing consent owing to inadequate compensation, and others who have given consent in the hope of increased compensation rates.
Many of the 70 percent of farmers who say they have given consent to the Jewar Airport but not to the compensation rates have high hopes from this notification. “When the Section 11 details are published, then we might get more money too,” says Harvinder, who says he gave his consent on the form which did not include any compensation details. When asked why that would happen he said, “The elections are also around the corner, why would they not give us more money?”
His friends are expecting the same. “We have been given assurance by government authorities,” they said.
The officials, however, are of the opinion that a change in compensation amounts is unlikely. “After this we will give the farmers two months to reach out to us again where they can raise issues and concerns with us,” ADM Balaram The Quint.
Change in Land Use from Rural to Urban
While Ranhera and Dayantpur were notified as urban under Article 12A of the UP Industrial Area Development Act in 2016, the other four were notified in May 2018. As a consequence, these farmers will get only twice the circle rate, whereas if they remained rural, they would get four times the circle rate in compensation.
Farmers feel the change in notification was only made to reduce the amount of compensation to be paid. In both Ranhera and Dayantpur village, which were notified two years ago, farmers complain that they have not seen any benefits of being declared ‘urban’.
“You tell us, do these villages deserve to be called urban? We do not have proper electrical wiring, sewerage or a functioning hospital. The structure was built but has remained closed for years,” Suresh Singh, 60, who is a farmer from the village, said. To add to that, villagers say the removal of the panchayat system has created a disconnect between them and the authorities.
“We do not even know who the responsible local authorities are. Sometimes work gets done and sometimes it doesn’t. The last pradhan who was elected, advocate Sanjeev, continues to go and meet the people on our behalf.”
In Dayantpur village too, villager Ajay Pratap said, “We have a hospital made in 8 years and not once has a doctor sat here. There are no facilities for toilets and roads are not constructed in certain areas. Our cattle has died after they have got repeatedly stuck in the ponds where there is no boundary wall.”
While the latest transition was made in May 2018, the Social Impact Assessment team from Gautam Budhh Nagar University submitted their recommendations around two months later on 10 August 2018.
Officials, however, say the transition needs to be made. “Agricultural land cannot be used for an airport. Land use has to change. This is related to the master planning of the region and is technical. The purpose of the land will drive the notification,” a senior official from the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority told The Quint.
The Way Forward From Here
The government is going to issue a notification, within the next week, under Section 11 of the 2013 Act. Under this section, details of the acquired land, the landowners and the compensations will be published.
Only time will tell if the farmers’ optimistic approach regarding higher compensation will be met with relief. But while farmers expect more money, the impact of the withdrawal of consent of the 300-odd farmers remains to be realised.
As the law states, consent cannot be withdrawn if the government has ensured proper disclosure of information while signing consent forms.
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