AP to acquire farmers' land without consent

AP to acquire farmers' land without consent

Farmers in the five villages of the Krishna riverfront are in a state of panic following the Andhra Pradesh government’s declaration that it would acquire their land without consent.

The process of pooling land to build a Singapore-style riverfront city has been underway and the state has gathered nearly 30,000 acres in 29 villages coming under the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) as on February 28.

“The government initially said land pooling would be voluntary,” said Vijayagouri, a small farmer who owns 1.5 acres in Penumaka village in a few kilometres from here.

“If the government were to (forcefully) acquire the land, then we have no choice but to commit suicide since we do not know anything else but farming,” she said.

Undiminished supply of water and proximity to major market towns like Guntur and Vijayawada have allowed farmers, tenant farmers and farm labourers in the villages of Undavalli, Penumaka, Errabalem and Nidamarru find work virtually the whole year.

They grow flowers, turmeric, pulses, bananas, sweet corn and almost every conceivable crop in the vast swathes of land around the riverfront; land the government now wants to use for building a swanky capital city. “Policemen prowl around streets of these villages, where majority of farmers have refused to give up their lands,” said Ankireddy, a farmer in Penumaka.

He said farmers in these villages have not been allowed to attend to the nurseries in the night. Indeed, there is widespread panic and fear among farmers here that the government would take away their land with a simple notification using the Centre’s land ordinance.
Mastanamma, another woman farmer, said she could pay her owner Rs 30,000 per crop per acre while also educating her two children.

The acquisition without consent would, however, raise serious questions on these self-reliant farmers.

“If Chandrababu Naidu gives them a chance, most farmers would not hesitate to take back their consent letters. The chief minister is afraid and has not set foot here in six months,” said an irate Girija Rani. Farmers here feel that the government has only received consent letters from 5,000 farmers and has inflated that number to pressurise others into surrendering their lands.

Not all the farmers are opposed to land pooling. Lured by the prospect of development and substantial increase to the value of their land in ten years, some farmers are only too happy to offer them to the government.

“I am sure to get Rs 3 crore (in ten years) when the government gives back my land. Some misguided farmers are resorting to legal recourse, which would prove costly,” said Dasari Krishna, who believes in Naidu’s ability to deliver his promise.

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