Andhra Pradesh: Farmers Losing Fertile Lands for a Pittance
The Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham (APRS) initiated a Vanta varpu (cooking) protest as a part of Maha Dharna Sabha on Aug 30, 2022, at Ponguturu Village, Koyyalagudem mandal, Andhra Pradesh.
The protest was against the ongoing land acquisition for the construction of the Greenfield National Highway project, which runs through the fertile lands of nearly six districts, spanning 31 villages and 1200 acres of land, and ultimately affecting the lives of 1,500 farmers in Andhra Pradesh.
APRS has demanded that the government offer Rs 50 lakh/acre as compensation to the farmers who handed over their lands to the Greenfield highway project. Land for the project has been acquired from farmers in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
K Srinivas Rao, joint secretary, APRS, shed light on the various problems faced by the farmers due to the project.
"The farmers complained about the snatching of their fertile lands and further getting less compensation than their counterparts in Telangana. The 162 km highway will connect the two states and run from Khammam in Telangana to Devarapally in Andhra Pradesh. It passes through the Chintalapudi mandal in Andhra Pradesh, in the newly formed Eluru district and affects the following mandals in Eluru district - Chintalapudi, Narsapuram, Jangareddigudem, and Koyyalagudem. It also passes through Devarapally and Gopalapuram mandals in the West Godavari District. This is the most fertile land where oil farms, cocoa, lemon, banana, coconut, corn, teak trees, and custard apples can be grown", he said.
The farmers' struggle began in 2018 when the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government sent a notification for the evacuation of farmers for the Greenfield National Highway Project. The then collector promised to give fair compensation.
According to The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, there should be 70% of the people's ratification/approval for a national highway project. In the case of a public-private project, approval from 80% of the affected people is compulsory. But, in this case, the project has already started without the consent of the farmers.
HOW THE COMPENSATION IS WORKED OUT
The activists explained why the land compensation is higher in Telangana than in Andhra Pradesh. According to existing laws, the farmers are entitled to fair compensation and a solatium. Solatium is an amount awarded in addition to compensation. Per the 2013 compensation act, the solatium award is 100% of the compensation.
The Telangana government has offered 1.5 times the basic registration value as compensation. In addition to this, a matching amount is paid as solatium. Thus, compensation = registration valuex1.5+100% solatium. But the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh offers the basic registration value of ×1.25 + 100% solatium.
Further, the registration value for the affected lands has been set at different rates by both governments. The basic registration value in Telangana by the time of the 2018 notification was Rs 2 lakh/acre, but after protests by farmers, they increased it to Rs 8.5 lakh. So the total compensation, including solatium, is around Rs 25 lakh/acre in Telangana.
But in Andhra Pradesh, the average registration value was set at Rs 6 lakhs. So, in a place like Chintalagudem, the total compensation is Rs 15 lakh/acre. The type of region (urban/rural) also affects the multiplication factor. In Sagar, the total compensation is Rs 25 lakh. In Koyyalagudem, it is Rs 20 lakh. In Devarapallim, it is close to Rs 40 lakh because of the urban population and higher demand. So most of the farmers are getting the compensation that is less than the present market value of their lands.
Rao also mentioned the deliberate miscalculations of the land measurements and farmers being asked to pay a bribe for recording the correct measurements. A farmer from Chintalapally also said trees aged about 25 years got the same rate as the 5-year-old ones, which is another loss the farmer bears. According to the association members, 95% of the land acquisition for the project has been completed.
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