Naidu meets select farmers, evasive on compensation

  • Free Education, free healthcare
  • Former demand 200 square yards of developed commercial land for each acre of surrendered land
  • Promises to turn farmers into industrialists
  • Assures support, but non-committal about increase in the package
  • Taking on the farmers in Naidu’s way

(P.Ravi)

Hyderabad, November 19: Government of AP had decided to form Capital Regional Development Authority (CRDA) to oversee the new capital related issues. It was decided at a cabinet meeting held for the purpose that the CRDA will have two divisions – ‘Governance’ with CM himself as the Chairman and Municipal Minister as the Vice Chairman and ‘Executive’ with chief secretaries and principal secretaries of finance and municipal departments as representatives. VGTM will also come under CRDA. The five-hour meeting decided to include the gram panchayats and municipalities of the 30 villages of Tulluru Mandal under capital city. The area within the ambit of the outer ring road of 180km will be considered as the capital region. Whether to pass an ordinance or Bill to this effect would be decided after CM’s meeting with farmers of the region. Around 300 farmers, in contrary to the expected 600 attended the meeting with the CM at Lakeview Guest House. During the meeting Babu assured the farmers that he will take care of each of the farmers who give their land. He also told them that he will turn the farmers, who give lion’s share of their land, into industrialists. He will support uneducated and the farm labourers, he promised. But, the demands for 200 sq yards of developed commercial land to famers, who have land where three crops per year are cultivated and the suitable compensation for the farmers who have been cultivating their lands for many years, have to be looked into, he stated.

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The farmers from 17 villages belonging to Tulluru, Mangalagiri, Tadepalli mandals attended the meeting. They have reportedly (according to minister Ravel Kishore Babu who briefed the media after the meeting) expressed their happiness over their area being chosen as capital. However, the unhappiness over the package is stopping them, they said. In addition to free education and reservation in government jobs and a compensation of 1200 yards of non-commercial and 200 yards of commercial space, they demanded that the promises have to be presented in the assembly and a law to the effect has to be made. Further the major loss will be to the small farmers who cultivate land on lease and the farm labourers.

Around five farmers from each village were selected for the meeting held at Lake View Guest House and sources reveal that these farmers did not include those who are unwilling to give their land.  Media was not allowed at the meeting.

According to a popular news daily, however, M Seshagiri Rao, a farmer of Rayipudi village in Guntur district, said that the farmers of 11 villages were not ready to give up their lands and they were not invited to the meeting with Chief Minister. “The meeting will be attended by the TD leaders and those, who are willing to give their lands…what is the use of that meeting? The Chief Minister has to convince the farmers, who are not willing to give their lands,” he said.

Another farmer, Srinivasa Reddy of Nidumarru in Guntur district too said that only pro-TDP and pro-land pooling farmers were

selected for the meeting. Chandrababu Naidu has been flouting Sivaramakrishnan Committee recommendations from day one and that includes choosing Vijayawada as capital city. One of the major reasons the committee quoted for non-suitability of Vijayawada for capital is that the area between Vijayawada-Guntur may impose threat for the economy of the state, apart from creating environmental degradation. The committee also said that land acquisition will take 3-4 yrs and the land acquisition on the present market rates is a costly affair. The land rates have been increased at Vijayawada & Guntur.

The whole approach to the land acquisition has been an exclusive one without involving all the stake holders. There were no discussions held before taking the decision, neither with people’s representatives nor the people themselves. Even now, there is no clarity on whether the farmers whose land has been taken will be given commercial land in return, and in all probability the farmers cannot continue to stay in their village and they will be displaced. Instead of giving clarity over these issues, chief minister continues to announce that everyone will be made partners in development. And the presumption that the farmers will forfeit their fertile land where cultivation happens throughout the year, just because the CM dreams of Singapore is not a people-centric approach.

The opposition parties are doing their duty of expressing their reservations over the process. They warn the government that It will do well if Chandrababu Naidu goes back a few years and reflect on his failure to win elections for two straight terms.

A jilted farmer, who has been a pillar of Andhra Pradesh economy, will prove to his Achilles heel. And for him to realise any of his grand schemes he shall need more than one term. Come to think of it, Babu could not even fulfill his promise of loan waiver after winning the election.

The observers say they have a feeling of déjà vu recalling the events that culminated into a huge movement led by Congress party under the leadership of YS Rajasekhara Reddy and nine Left parties protesting against the power sector reforms undertaken by Chandrababu Naidu when he was chief minister last. Now again Naidu is taking on the farmers in the name of building the new capital directly affecting their interests. This development is sure to snowball into a big controversy in days to come and it will keep Naidu engaged for the rest of this term.

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