Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a team of agitated farmers from Uttar Pradesh led by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi that the government would take up the pending bill to amend land acquisition in the next session of Parliament.
“The Prime Minister assured farmers that the Act would be amended in the next session of Parliament,” Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who was part of the delegation, told mediapersons.
The assurance came hours after farmers in parts of western UP disrupted traffic on highways to oppose “forcible” acquisition of their land for the 165-km Yamuna Expressway linking Noida and Agra. They were also demanding better compensation for land being acquired for the expressway.
“Land acquisition is a big issue in the country. What I saw in Aligarh is extremely unfair. We need to have a view on it,” Gandhi said before the meeting, targeting CM Mayawati.
On Saturday, Gandhi took the BSP government in UP and Aligarh farmers by surprise when he paid an unannounced visit to Tappal village in Aligarh district, where the farmers have been protesting for the past four weeks now. Gandhi had assured the farmers that he would raise their concerns at appropriate forums.
The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, which seeks changes in the Land Acquisition Act, 1991, is being withheld owing to strong opposition from Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee who heads Trinamool Congress, a key UPA ally.
The Bill redefines 'public purpose' as land acquired for defence purposes, infrastructure projects or for any project useful to the general public.
The Bill requires social impact studies to be carried out in cases where large-scale displacement of people takes place.
Earlier on Wednesday, farmers in Agra district hurled bricks at the police and indulged in arson as they repeatedly tried to block traffic on the Agra-Delhi national highway.
A state roadways bus and Agra Municipal Corporation truck were set ablaze and other vehicles damaged by the protestors near Chalesar village, 22 km from Agra.
The police lobbed teargas shells, fired rubber bullets and cane-charged the farmers.
In Aligarh district, farmers led by Congress and BJP leaders disrupted train and road traffic at various places.
Despite the incessant rains, many farmers came out on the roads in Khair and Tappal to block traffic. Markets in Tappal, Khair, Jattari and Pisawa were completely deserted.
Aligarh District Magistrate K. Ravindra Naik said the agitation was peaceful and there was no incidence of violence.