For the largely agrarian villagers of Chota Bagru, a nondescript dusty hamlet 35km from the Pink City, the grass is definitely greener on the other side of the six-lane Jaipur-Ajmer Expressway. Forced to give up land for a SEZ coming up on their fields, the farmers rue their fate ever since the Vasundhara Raje government began acquiring land through the Jaipur Development Authority.
About 25-30km from Jaipur, the highway divides the fortunes of two sets of villages — Thakaria, Pakadoyia, Ghiron ki Dhani, Maladidha that got exorbitant prices for their land and the others, Chota Khurd, Darli, Naringpur, Dadiya, Dilawar, Bamboria, Neota, who were paid a pittance for theirs, although with the same fertility.
A typical scene at Chota Khurd on any day sees a group of despondent villagers voicing their resentment to anyone who cares to listen. “I gave three bighas and got Rs 9.60 lakh only. It is not possible to purchase another piece of land with this amount,” says 62-year-old Ramu. His friend Mool Chand is furious. “Why should we be paid a pittance when across the road private companies have showered the people with money?”
Their collective jealousy turns to helpless anger every time they see their neighbours’ luxury cars.
BK Subeya, the head of Mohindra World City, Jaipur, says: “We will create an IT zone. The company has given 200 acres to Infosys, 100 acres to Wipro, 15 acres to Tech Mohindra in the SEZ coming up in and around Chota Khurd. It has got 2,500 acres of land to develop a full SEZ. The JDA has transferred 1,000 acres of land to us.”
The JDA started acquiring land in March 2007 and lapped up some 6,800 bhigas with compensation ranging from Rs 3.40-14.50 lakh per bigha, says Om Dixit, the Authority’s Land Acquisition Officer.
Compared to that, each bigha in Thakaria — on the other side — fetched anything between Rs 40-60 lakh, leaving the villagers “filthy rich all of a sudden”. This side will house residential complexes and mini-cities being built by private developers like Vatika, Omex and Aparpalika.
Shankar Lal Raigar, 47, could not believe his luck when he pocketed Rs 1.80 crore for his 30 bighas. After splurging some, he invested the rest and bought 10 bighas of irrigated land in nearby villages.
“This will be my permanent source of income,” says Raigar sitting in his newly built two-storey house with modern amenities. An SUV and a Chevrolet Tavera gleam in the morning sun.
Almost every farmer in this village enjoys a standard of living that can rival their ‘city-cousins’.
Public expenditure expert and noted economist Professor Nathuramka commented on the discriminatory compensation, saying: “The SEZ concept is not a bad one but it can not be done illogically and irrationally thereby hitting the interests of the farmers. The state government must be careful in handling issue of acquiring the land of the farmers otherwise it could witness another Nandigram here also.”