The fine dust blows everywhere, adding to the misery of the summer heat as work at the Buddh International Formula One track, where India's inaugural grand prix will be held in October, goes on in full swing.
A bunch of policemen guard the main entrance of the sprawling facility, taking shade under the half-finished Taj expressway that runs close to the main entrance of F1 track. There is no sign of the farmers' agitation that has kept the administration on tenterhooks not very far away in Greater Noida.
However, the F1 track bosses may still be in for a rude jolt. The farmers at the nearby villages are upset that their religious sentiments are not being respected, warning that it could blow into a major controversy in the near future.
Barely 150 metres from the track stands a decades old peer baba temple, which has become the bone of contention, as the villagers fear their popular place of worship could be demolished.
The villagers are already upset because the short route from Gunpura and Atta villages to the bigger Dhankaur village on the other side has been cut off because of the track. They are not assured the path to the temple will be left untouched, and feel a complete cut off is inevitable.
Head priest Balak Das expressed concern saying the temple land was originally huge but had now shrunk to just 30 square yards due to encroachment. Mistrust, says Das, has forced the people of the region to approach court.
"When all our pleas fell on deaf ears, we had no option but to seek court intervention," says Ekta Nagar, pradhan of Gunpura and Atta villages, from where large tracts of land have been purchased for the F1 circuit. A former pradhan of Dhankaur Ramesh Nagar said villagers had held demonstrations in the past after the path to the temple was briefly cut off.
There is simmering discontent, and if smooth passage from Gunpura village to the temple is not allowed, says Balak Das, the locals could revolt. The head priest cannot read or write, but carries a local court order in his waist pouch.
“Hundreds of devotees throng the temple on Sundays. Hurting the religious sentiments can turn things ugly. It should be sorted out amicably,” says Sunder Singh, a resident of Gunpura village.
The other sticking point is opposition to the shifting of the Gunpura village cremation ground — a few hundred metres from the temple — situated on land that has been acquired. A dumping ground for animal carcasses is also within the land acquired for the race circuit.
The villagers have filed a public-interest litigation in the Allahabad High Court that will come up for hearing on May 18.
However, the F1 circuit boss said the issues would be smoothly resolved.
“It is a samadhi, not a temple and we fully empathise with the local people,” Sameer Gaur, MD and CEO, Jaypee Sport International Ltd (JPSL), told HT.
“We are talking to the people concerned and are confident a solution would be found," he said. "Whatever we decide, we will make sure it does not hurt any feelings."
Gaur also said there was no issue over the shifting of the cremation ground and that a majority of the villagers had accepted it.
Things are fine right now, but if things get ugly the Indian
GP on Oct 28-30 may well be in jeopardy. Although Jaypee sources assure, this will never happen.