2000 farmers move HC against land acquisition for Nagpur-Mumbai Eway

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Nashik: Around 2000 farmers from more than 40 villages in Nashik district has finally moved to the court against aquisition of their land for Nagpur-Mumbai ExpressWay.

The farmers, who claim that their land is being forcefully taken away by the government for the proposed link that is being developed by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), have started filing Public Interest Litigations (PILs) in the Bombay High Court.

On Thursday, over 40 petitions were filed, while more farmers will approach the court over the next few days and the coming week.

“We have decided that from each village, one petition will be filed in the High Court. Two petitions were filed last week and over 40 today (Thursday). Many more farmers will follow suit. We are filing separate petitions as each village’s case is different,” said Raju Desale, convener of the Samruddhi Mahamarg Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti, a group formed by the project-affected farmers in Nashik.

Some farmers from Shivade village in Nashik, where 48 villages will be affected by the proposed super highway, have already moved court.

“We have tried to use all democratic means. We met leaders from all political parties and reached out to the government as well. But the state administration is in no mood to listen. The government is being misled by bureaucrats, who are providing wrong information. Not a single farmer from most of the 10 affected districts has consented to give his land,” Desale added.

The Mumbai-Nagpur Super Highway passes through 391 villages and the government will require close to 10,000 hectares of land. Around 9000 hectares belong to farmers, who don’t want to part with their land.

The expected cost of the project is around Rs 30,000 crore, out of which around Rs 26,000 crore will be raised through loans and the rest will be equity from MSRDC.

The MSRDC claims that it has already finished joint measurement across 670 km of the total 706-km land, a figure that has been rubbished by farmers’ leaders and activists.

Noted lawyer Rameshwar Geete will represent a section of farmers in the High Court when the PILs come up for discussion. “I will tell their side of the story,” he said.

Lawyer Ratankumar Icham, who will represent another section of farmers, added, “Our main contention is that the entire land acquisition process is illegal. The MSRDC must acquire the plots under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. What they are calling joint measurement was also not as per procedure. Nothing was done as mandated under the land acquisition norms. We will bring all this to the court’s notice.”

Last week, the MSRDC announced that it would give farmers five times of the local Ready Reckoner rates for their land.

Ready Reckoner rates are the prices of residential units, land or commercial property for a given area that are published and regulated by the state.

While a section of farmers from Vidarbha have welcomed the move, those closer to Mumbai in Thane and Nashik, where the protests have been most fierce, are not happy with the offer. These groups say that the government must pay them according to the market rate and not the Ready Reckoner rates.

“Our main demand is that the MSRDC must acquire land through the Land Acquisition Act, 2013. They are trying to buy the land outright now. If that is the case, then they should give us five times the market rate. The Ready Reckoner rates are much lower than the actual market rates and not a fair price at all. Even in the 2013 Act, there is a provision to give five times the land rate, so the government is not saying anything new,” said Baban Harne, convener of the Samruddhi Mahamarg Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti in Thane.

“There are some villages, where the Ready Reckoner rates are as low as Rs 5 lakh an acre. What will farmers get in return? If they agree to sell their land to MSRDC, they won’t be able to buy new land for sustenance. They will lose their livelihood completely. The government must give us social compensation by way of jobs and not just money,” Harne said. However, farmers staying closer to Nagpur, where land is barren and doesn’t yield much income, are considering giving up their land for a good price.

Chandrakant Kshirsagar, who own five acres of land in Kadvanchi village in Jalna district, has agreed to give up three acres for the highway project.

“I want Rs 5 crore per acre. If I get that rate, I will sell my land right away. But the government should give us good rates,” said Kshirsagar, the sarpanch.