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Farmers protest in Jaipur’s Nindar village; The government doesn’t seem to care

In Nindar Village of Jaipur, Farmers have been staging a unique protest to oppose land acquisition by JDA by burying themselves in neck-deep pits.

The villagers of Nindar in Jaipur, are left with no option but to demonstrate protest against the Jaipur Development Authorities, for forcing them to hand over their lands.

The protesting villagers have dug themselves neck deep in the mud seeking justice from the government. The JDA had started a housing project in a place near Jaipur and the acquisition of lands for the project began in 2010, with the first published notification in the newspaper. Subsequently, the awards for the acquisition began to be get published in 2013, for those who surrendered their lands to the authorities willingly.

The JDA has forcefully acquired 1350 bigha land in Nindar village in Jaipur district, of which only 274 bighas have been willingly surrendered by the owners. Rest of them are either not ready to give out their lands or are not satisfied with the proposals offered by the development authorities.

According to the Indian constitution, the Union and the State governments have the right to acquire land from people for the purpose of industrialisation, development of infrastructural facilities or urbanisation of the private land. Against the land, the governments provide compensation to the affected landowners and their rehabilitation and resettlement.

The protesting owners are complaining that the compensation offered by the development authorities, was according to the rates dating back to 2010. The agitated people said that the Vasundhara Raje government is unsympathetic towards them as it has been more than 15 days that the farmers are protesting against the JDA, but not a single representative from state government came forward for talks.

In response to the insensitiveness of the government, the protestors decided to intensify the demonstration and take ‘Zameen Samadhi Satyagraha’. The farmers along with few women on 2 Oct, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, decided to adopt the non-violent method of showing their anger towards the government. For the first time in the state, farmers took ‘Zameen samadhi satyagraha’ for an indefinite period where their bodies (with only the heads sticking out) remained buried under the earth.

On the first day of the Zameen samadhi satyagraha, as many as 22 farmers sat buried in the pits. Also, a number of other villagers supported them by staying at the premises where the protest is taking place. The farmers have warned that more farmers will sit on the dharna in the pits if no action is taken soon, but the government does not seem to pay any heed to them. As on 8th October 2017, there are almost 50 people, including over 15 women, have taken the Zameen samadhi.

According to the statement given by Dr Nagendra Singh Shekhawat, convenor of Ninder Bachao Yuva Kisan Sangarsh Samiti, around 5000 families, including those of the farmers will be affected if the lands are forcefully acquired and the owners are not given the deserving compensation.

An elderly in his statement to the press said that “we are here to demand better rates for our land. What the government is offering us is not enough. The cost of land is much higher than it was before.”

A farmer, who was buried neck-deep in a pit said that “We are against the acquisition of land by the JDA… We want it to be revoked.” The farmers are demanding the lands that the JDA has forcefully taken under them, should be returned to them. They are also saying that a fresh survey be carried out for the lands and that the compensation and the acquisition of the lands should be done according to the new Land Acquisition Act.

Nagendra also informed that when the project had begun and the JDA started acquiring the lands in 2010, they had gone to then Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot seeking justice and he had assured that the lands will not be acquired. However, soon after the government was changed and BJP came to power under the leadership of Vasundhara Raje, the assurance of Gehlot went in vain. “We are here to save our lands from the forceful land acquisition without consent from 80% of the affected people,” he said.

The Gemini farms, along whose land the 200-foot-wide road was to be built for the project, had filed a case against the JDA. The High Court in July 2017 gave its judgment in favour of JDA. After the court’s judgement, the JDA on 16 Sep began the construction of the road from the farm premises. However, soon after the construction began, Gemini farm was able to get a stay order for a month from the court. The owner managed to get the stay as he claimed that the JDA had begun the construction before the compensation was paid to him.

The farmers disagreeing to give away their lands alleged that the JDA officials intimidated them to surrender their lands. They also complained that the survey, done to decide the rate of the compensation was imprudent as the survey had not taken note of all their lands.

Nathuram (35), a landowner who works as a welder in Vishwakarma Industrial Area in Jaipur said that “My house is attached with the farm but the jamabandi (land record) has no mention of this. They have made my residential investment zero. Even our land is mentioned as barani (rainfed) when we cultivate both Rabi and Kharif crops.”

Another resident of Nindar, Gopal Kumawat(52) said that he had lodged a FIR against the JDA officials for forcing him to surrender his lands. “They said, court mein bhago par tumhari zameen nahi denge ab wapas (run to court but we won’t give your land back),” he told the press. The JDA instead of cooperating with the people and providing them justice is threatening and scaring away the people saying that even if they go to the courts, they will not get back their lands now.

Babulal, another resident complained that they are 8 brothers and the Development authorities are paying compensation according to the rates back in 2010 in return for their lands. He said that with only that much amount of money, they would hardly be able to manage their lives. He also added that even if they agree on the compensation offered by the JDA, they are not sure when they will get the amount.

Another major problem behind the farmers not willing to give away their lands is that most of the families that are affected by this land acquisition are not the titled owners and hence cannot demand a compensation. Of the total land that the development authorities want to acquire, 150 bigha belongs to the ‘Madir Mafi’,  meaning that the land comes under the possession of the temple and the priests.

But the people who are currently residing on that land had purchased it from the priests years back, though no legal formalities were done. Now the JDA claims that it had already deposited 60 crores in the court for the ‘Mandir Mafi’, which means that according to the law that deposited 60 crores will be given to the priests who are the legal owners and the people who had purchased the land will be deprived of any compensation.

Kajormal Kumawat (55), the resident of Lucky Vihar Colony made on the ‘Mandir Mafi’ land admitted that “We took the land from pandit Ji on an agreement but the house is not registered in our names. JDA has asked us to vacate our houses in which we have put all our savings and we won’t even get the compensation.”

“JDA says our houses are illegal and we won’t get any compensation. Also, they asked us to pay for demolishing our houses,” said Ganesh Singh Tanwar, a resident of Anand Vihar Colony in Nindar.

In 2013 the development authorities had issued awards to all those who willingly surrendered their lands to the JDA. Even in the awards granted, it is a loss for the farmers who gave up their lands. The farmers gave up their land in return of 25% developed land in proportion to their acquired land, 20% for residential purpose and 5% for commercial purpose. The burden disguised in the award is that a tax of 1.25% per annum is mentioned in the deal to be paid for first five years and later 2.5% per annum for a lifetime on the residential part.

While on the commercial part owners are expected to pay a tax of 2.5% per annum for the first five years and 5% per annum for a lifetime.

Reetu, a landowner in that area questioned that what good the development authorities were doing by giving 25% developed land? How do they expect the poor farmers to pay such big amount of taxes? It is like first, the authorities convinced the farmers to willingly surrender their lands in return for handsome compensation and then fool them by giving then 25% developed land levied with heavy taxes for the rest of the lifetime.

“The strategy is to first grab the land and then compel the owners to sell their lands immediately,” she said.

On the other hand, the builders who purchased those acquired lands from the JDA are also planning to protest against the JDA saying that it is them and not the farmers that are suffering. Banshidhar Rundla, a property dealer based in Nindar in his statement to the press said that “It is we who are suffering, not the farmers. We have purchased the land from them but we are not sure whether that land will be ours or not. We are planning to protest against JDA now.”

The villagers have been holding demonstration since mid-Sep, which has grown even more intense after the recent protest of the farmers by burying themselves neck deep, but the Rajasthan government seem to be unaffected. Starting 7th October, the protesters have decided to give up eating and have started fast until death.According to the recent developments, on 6 Oct, the Jaipur Development Commissioner (JDC), Vaibhav Galeriya has accepted the demand of the protesting farmers to conduct a fresh survey of their land.

According to the recent developments, on 6 Oct, the Jaipur Development Commissioner (JDC), Vaibhav Galeriya has accepted the demand of the protesting farmers to conduct a fresh survey of their land. However, the officials took a U-turn in their talks with farmers on 7th September. The situation and progress of the talks with either the JDA or government officials was not clear until writing this report.

We visited the village on 8th October and spoke to Dr Nagendra Singh Shekhawat about the protest. Check his interview in the video below.

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