Farmers' protests: Corruption, not land, is sowing discontent

Blame the politicians-builders nexus for unfair compensation

ajay

Ajay Singh | May 16, 2011




If cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth, the struggle of Greater Noida’s farmers against land acquisition is a violent expression of that truth. Behind the killing of four farmers of Bhatta-Parsaul villages lies the story of loot and plunder by an insensitive state whose objectives are not dissimilar to those of mercenaries.

It would be patently wrong to say that the land acquisition in Greater Noida for the Yamuna Expressway was meant for the development of the state. In fact, the land for the expressway, which was known as the Taj Corridor in its earlier avatar, was acquired to promote a favourite group of real estate developers. Jaiprakash Associates, which has been awarded the contract, has gained immensely during Mayawati’s regime. Along the expressway, it has also been given yet another contract to develop real estate on both sides of the proposed highway.

But Jaiprakash Associates is not the only beneficiary of Mayawati’s munificence. Hundreds of big and small builders have come up all over Greater Noida with the promise of building more than five lakh dwelling units on agricultural land. While the compensation paid to farmers ranges between Rs 800 and Rs 1,000 per square metre, the market price determined by real estate developers is more than Rs 15,000 per square metre. Little wonder then that the farmers are protesting.

Of late, Noida has tailored its policies to allocate the land to builders for Rs 7,000-8,000 per square metre on the basis of deferred payment for 20 years. This implies that a real estate developer will be in possession of land only after paying one-tenth of the real cost. Obviously these policies are not guided by public good. It is alleged that the builders are being asked to pay in cash the significant chunk of discrepancy between the market rate and the allotment rate to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Of course, it is not possible to establish the veracity of such stories. But the manner in which the government has gone about building land banks for the real estate developers provides as much basis for speculation as informed anguish.

Given the general perception of all-round corruption symbolising the Mayawati regime, there are several more such stories with a ring of plausibility around them. For instance, there is a brazen and open levy on each bottle of CMFL (country-made foreign liquor) for the BSP fund in the entire state by the regime’s favourite liquor baron. The powerful nexus of such builders and corporate honchos with bureaucrats close to Mayawati seems to be running amok in the state.

The Bhatta-Parsaul incident assumes significance in this context. It was the impression of brazen corruption that drove farmers to desperation. As the story of the developers-bureaucrats-politicians getting fattened at the expense of farmers’ land gained currency, the social discontent continued to simmer. For the past two months, farmers have been raising the issue of compensation but without any result. The state government has not only continued to ignore the growing discontent but also attempted to quell it with force. The killing of two constables and four farmers was the logical culmination of a series of indiscretions on the part of the state government.

However, there is a flip side to the story in the wake of the country’s top political leaders making a pilgrimage to the troubled spot to revive their sagging fortunes. Noida has been used as a milch cow by the party in power irrespective of political denomination. During Mulayam Singh Yadav’s tenure too, the authority was asked to curry favours to favourite corporate houses in a brazen manner. Noida, which was originally designed to promote industrial activity in the state, has therefore been reduced to serving just the political masters and their cronies.

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