“It is our land. You cannot snatch it from us," said Chhatrapal Singh Yadav (60), summing up the sentiment echoed by farmers in Chaukhandi village near Noida.
Father of four young children, who don't go to college, the wheat
farmer of Garhi Chaukhandi village near Noida is angry but has not stopped dreaming. "I wish the government could realise our importance and give us our due."
His wife, Maya (58), said, "In two strokes (in 2004 and 2006), 40 bighas of our land was acquired in the name of planned development. We tried to oppose but our voices were not heard. We had no choice. The government is yet to give us developed residential plots as promised."
Farmers, apart from cash compensation, also get plots (five per cent of the land acquired) in developed sectors through lottery and after payment of development charges as part of a rehabilitation plan.
If the acquisition policies are faulty, the government should not use the loopholes to exploit its own farmers, said the couple. "Forget the laws. What prevents the government from giving us what we deserve? We can only hope better sense will prevail some day," they said.
When the process of acquisition began, farmers staged 'dharnas', the police beat them up and many farmers were sent to jail. Police pitched tents and camped in the village for months and terrorised them.
Chhatrapal lives in his ancestral house in the village. He said he did not have the option of choosing a profession for himself, farming was the only thing he could see himself doing. "Land is our only source of livelihood. We're skilled in no other trade. Our emotions and identities are attached to our land. No one can uproot us."
His wife said, "We have lost our major chunk of land. The companies set up on our land don't give our children jobs. They say there is no reservation. We have seen violence doesn't benefit anyone. We hope for peace and will fight for our rights."