Agricultural land was flattened, irrigation lines damaged, and electric poles and trees uprooted to make way for the ‘Vichar Mahakumbh’ extravaganza in Ninora, a hamlet 10 km from Ujjain, to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The state issued notices to 62 farmers in October 2015 and acquired 550 bigha farmlands for the event to be held from May 12.
For the three-day event, which will host religious gurus and public intellectuals, the state government has erected three centrally air-conditioned auditoriums with 3,000 capacity each over 18 acres, lavish cottages and as many as eight helipads.
“We were told that temporary structures would be built on the land in view of Simhastha, but now they have erected huge auditoriums, halls, guesthouses and helipads on our land,” said 67-year-old Ramnath Yogi, a farmer.
He said the administration paid Rs 4,000 per bigha as compensation for the land, but the crop loss the farmers would face for at least a year after the event was not taken into consideration.
The government denied the allegation. “In the other parts where the Simhastha mela authority has acquired land for vehicular parking or other purposes, the land owner will be paid Rs 240 per bigha. We had included crop compensation and land rent and are paying Rs 4,000 per bigha to farmers in Ninora,” said a district administration official.
Each helipad, 30 metres in diameter and constructed with solid concrete and bitumen, will cost around Rs 8 lakh, said a public works department official requesting anonymity.
“Ujjain, barely 10 km away, has a helipad, and Indore, 50 km away, has an airport,” said a Ninora villager. Though officials promised to return the land in the same condition it was acquired, farmers are sceptical.
“Our lands have been compressed by at least one foot, irrigation lines and bore wells have been damaged, electric poles and trees were felled,” said another farmer. “After such heavy constructions, the land will take at least one year to rejuvenate.”