For the 3,200 villagers of Ranhera, Dayantpur, Veerampur, Kureb, Karauli Bangar and Mundhera, the six villages that are to be acquired for the second phase of the greenfield Jewar International Airport, it’s a choice between the devil and the deep sea. While on the one hand they are looking forward for development to seep into the region on the back of Asia’s largest and the world’s fourth-largest airport after completion, they are adamant on not parting with their lands until the administration gives in to their demands of adequate compensation and proper rehabilitation and resettlement benefits. These include four times compensation on enhanced circle rates for their lands and a proper resettlement policy.
Located at a distance of about 70 km from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, the overall land requirement for the airport is estimated at 5,000 hectare. The first phase of the airport is expected to be completed by September 2024 and will have a capacity to cater to 12 million passengers per year. The second phase is due to be completed by FY31 and will increase its capacity to 30 million passengers per year, while the third and fourth phases are due to be finished by FY36 and FY40, respectively, further enhancing its capacity to 50 million and 70 million passengers, respectively.
The state government has already handed over 1,334 hectare in Jewar to the Yamuna International Airport Private Limited (YIAPL) — a 100% subsidiary of Zurich Airport International, which has been incorporated as a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to develop Jewar airport, last year.
According to the agreement, another 1,385 hectare is to be provided adjacent to the existing airport site for the second phase, which would facilitate the third runway and a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre for aircrafts. Out of this 1,385 hectare of land, nearly 1,185 hectare is to be acquired from the farmers of these six villages.
As per district administration data, a total of 7,164 villagers are to be affected by the land acquisition, out of which, the consent of 5,014 is mandatory, as per the LARR which stipulates that at least 70% of the land owners must give their consent for a PPP project. However, as on July 6, only 1,814 residents had given their consent, while 3,200 disagreed to give their consent due to the land price.
“We have seen the condition, farmers of the six villages who had given their lands for the first phase, are living in. They fell for the promises of a better future and accepted the two-time compensation. Now, they have been relocated to a rehabilitation site, which does not have even the most basic facilities such as sanitation, electricity and water. They also did not get any of the jobs promised by the administration” said Pitam Singh, a farmer from Ranhera, adding that the farmers have now decided they would not give their consent until the administration agreed to their demands.
While in the first phase, farmers had settled for a rate of Rs 2,300/sq m, this time they are demanding Rs 4,000/sq m. They are also insisting that the size of the compensatory land should be equal to the existing one, apart from the cost of the house. In the first phase of the acquisition, the administration had given land that was 50% of the size of the original plots.
According to the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013, the government offers four times the existing circle rate in rural areas and two times the circle rate in urban areas. However, these six villages and the six that were acquired for the first phase, were suddenly changed from rural to urban by the Uttar Pradesh government in 2017, thereby facilitating two-time compensation.
“Why were our villages notified as urban areas? It was done with an intention to reduce the rates of our land and facilitate the private players. While we do not mind handing over our lands for the greater good of the region and the country, it is also not fair of the government to deny us our rightful claim. The farmers of phase one were cheated and we will not allow that to be repeated with us,” said Pawan Khatana, of Bharatiya Kisan Union, which has taken up the cause of these farmers.
“While prices of land in the area have shot up in the past three years since the project took off, we are still being offered compensation at the old circle rates which were last increased in 2016. With inflation rising, we will not accept the old rates. We have to think of our future too,” said another Dhirendra Chaudhary from Nagla Hukam Singh.
In fact, thousands of farmers gathered at a Mahapanchayat at Jewar airport site in Noida last month and unanimously agreed to obstruct the construction of the airport if their demands were not met.
Speaking to FE, the MLA of Jewar, Dhirendra Singh admitted that the farmers have raised demands for increased compensation and have cited no increase in circle rates in the past six to seven years and rising inflation as the main reasons. “I agree with them and I have promised to take up these issues with chief minister Yogi Adityanath,” he said, adding, however, that industrial development of the area should not be compromised. “Farmers have to realise that development will bring in industry and open up job opportunities for the local youth in the region,” he said.
Balram Singh, additional district magistrate (land acquisition), Gautam Budh Nagar, too felt that while farmers have a right to ask for more compensation as they are losing their farmland, which is the mainstay of their livelihoods, the district administration, too, cannot go beyond its brief. “We are just following the Act and the compensation too, will be given as per the provisions of the Act in a fair manner. The price of the land and other calculations will be made at a later stage by the government,” he said.