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Accuse government of cheating them of adequate compensation

Even as the UPA government pushed through the new Land Acquisition Bill in Parliament, farmers near Bihar’s capital city went on an indefinite hunger strike against the state’s “unlawful” policy while acquiring land for a 3,200 acre (one acre equals 0.4 hectare) mega industrial park at Bihta. They said farmers are being paid land compensation at different rates in violation of “one project, one rate” scheme. The protest entered its tenth day on Thursday.

Two of the six people on hunger strike were rushed to hospital last evening after their condition deteriorated.

The proposed industrial park, which is about 32 km west of Patna, will house the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Patna, technology centre and a land bank.

On Tuesday, agitating farmers got support from unexpected quarters when local labourers refused to work at the construction site of the upcoming IIT campus. Labourers lent unconditional support to farmers and their community members sitting on indefinite hunger strike.

Anand Kumar, mukhiya of Amahara panchayat, who is sitting in protest, said the entire project is mired in corruption. The government had promised compensation under “one project, one rate scheme”.

A major chunk of land was acquired in 2007 from around 100 farmers. “The land and revenue department of the state government deliberately did not buy a major chunk of land,” Kumar said. In 2012 and 2013, government proposed to buy the same land at a higher rate.

Agitating farmers showed the government letter that proposes to buy .10 acre of land from Santosh Kumar Singh for Rs 24,87,165. In 2007,  government had purchased .10 acre land at the cost of Rs 40,000 from the farmers.

“Government is flouting its own policy of one project, one rate,” said Om Prakash Singh and Amarnath sitting on protest said.

Farmers claimed that government promised the rate prevailing at the time when the entire land is acquired. Anand Kumar said that government assured that sum of Rs 40,000 paid to the farmers per .10 acre in 2007 was a token amount.

“The final rate of the land would be fixed when entire land for the mega park is acquired. Now, government claims that Rs 40,000 paid to the farmers was the final land rate,” Kumar said. Farmers claimed that they will not part with their land for a measly Rs 40,000.

They said final rate prevailing at the time final acquisition formula was also adopted during Nabinagar Power Project, Bihar Millitary Police Headquarter and Simutala Residential School. But government is not implementing the same formula for Bihta.

Officials of Patna district administration are terming the farmer’s agitation as unjustified. They claim that land rates have spiralled. In 2007, market rate for .10 acre land was Rs 40,000 but in 2012-13 the price has gone up manifold.

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