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Lakhpati labourers

As the country’s longest expressway inches its way around the National Capital Region, farmers in Haryana are getting rich, and the Congress could gain from the windfall. Sanchita Sharma reports.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2009 00:20 IST
Sanchita Sharma

They work in the fields here as daily labourers — and own acres of lands in faraway places.

A massive expressway being built along the outer edges of the National Capital Region (NCR) is helping turn small farmers into wealthy landowners in Haryana.

The six-lane highway has already swallowed up 32-year-old Mukesh Kumar’s one-acre field in Manesar, 35 kilometres from Delhi’s international airport.

“I now work in other people’s fields and earn Rs 5,000 a month,” he says, as he sifts mustard seeds from the husk along with his wife Usha (30) and son Pradeep (13).

As for the money he earned from selling his land, he’s invested it in 10 acres in Rajasthan.

“I have given out that land on contract to local farmers. I earn Rs 1 lakh a year from it,” he says.

That’s not all. Once the expressway is opened to traffic, Kumar, who lives in his ancestral home in nearby Chillar village, plans to open up a shop near one of the exits to take advantage of his proximity to the nation’s longest expressway.

“I have stayed on because there are great opportunities coming our way,” he says. “Delhi is a hub of trade and commerce. It’s where people make it big. And this road is going to draw us closer than ever to the Capital.”

If all else fails, he says, the land in Rajasthan will ensure he and his family have something to fall back on.

“But things won’t fail,” says Kumar. “Look how Gurgaon [a small farming village that turned into a posh town after it was included in the NCR] changed in a decade. This expressway won’t let us down.”

His neighbour Rajender Singh (52) sold off one acre of his 2.5-acre field and bought 6 acres in Alwar, just a few kilometres away.

“We bought a car too. Now, one son farms and the younger, Suresh, runs a taxi service. They are both married and don't borrow money, so we are okay," says Singh.

The optimism is good news for the Congress.

The ruling state government is receiving credit across the board for its fair prices and judicious dealings in the land acquisitions.

“Each panchayat was consulted during price negotiations… the government thinks of us, so we will think of them,” says Vikram Yadav (48), who sold one acre for the highway but continues to till two acres in nearby Kasan village. “The state government is using its proximity to the Capital and the expressway to create over 1 million jobs and attract thousands of crores in investments over the next decade. Who would not want to be part of such growth?”