UP farmers call indefinite fast from Monday

Upset over politicians’ bid to use them to serve their own political ends, agitating farmers of western Uttar Pradesh have decided to go on indefinite fast with effect from Monday morning, demanding higher compensation for their land acquired for the Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway.

Sticking to their demand, they propose to intensify their month-old agitation at Tappal near Aligarh-Mathura border, about 400 km from here.

"We will sit on an indefinite fast with effect from Monday and will not budge until the state government concedes our demand for parity in compensation with our counterparts in Noida and Greater Noida," said Mr Yogendra Sharma, a member of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (Farmers Action Committee), which is spearheading the demonstration.

What has prompted the action committee to speak up was the massive demonstration led by Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief, Mr Ajit Singh in New Delhi on Thursday, where they felt, "effort was made to divert the attention from the burning issue of compensation".

Mr Sharma felt "politicians were only trying to hijack our platform to serve their own political ends".

Another action committee member and Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesman, Mr Anil Talan, told IANS over telephone from Tappal: "What was even more shocking that while trying to dismiss our action committee as some kind of a defunct body, Mr Ajit Singh even went to the extent of projecting himself as the sole representative of farmers."

Talan said: "Let Ajit Singh know that the sangharsh samiti does not need his tag to get recognition; we are not prepared to become tools in the hands of any politician; we all can see what is his real intent behind staging the Delhi show."

"We do want the archaic 1894 land acquisition law to be scrapped, but that does not mean that our immediate demand for higher compensation be overlooked; we also seek punishment for those officials who were responsible for ordering firing on the eve of Independence Day which left three of our farmer brethren, including a 12-year-old boy, dead."

Talan was also cut up because "the government has not cared to withdraw false criminal cases lodged against hundreds of farmers".

Farmers have been protesting at Tappal for weeks demanding a substantial enhancement in the compensation offered to them for their lands acquired to build the 165-km Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway.

Against the earlier offer of Rs 449 per sq metre, affected farmers were then given a revised offer of Rs 570 per sq metre. Farmers are, however, demanding a rate of Rs 850 per sq metre.

The 165-km long Expressway, which is expected to reduce the driving time between New Delhi and Agra by one hour, will pass through the districts of Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar (Hathras) and Mathura, and involves acquisition of land in as many as 115 villages.

A total of 2,500 hectare is to be acquired for the development of the expressway — 500 hectares each in Noida, Aligarh and Agra and 1,000 hectares in Gautam Buddha Nagar.

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