Farmers demanding a hike in compensation for land acquired for the eastern peripheral expressway (EPE) kept a team of 15 persons, including officials and engineers, hostage for more than an hour at Bil Akbarpur in Greater Noida on Wednesday.
In November 2015, too, farmers had stopped officials from carrying out the work.
The team comprising personnel from the construction agency hired by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Gautam Budh Nagar district administration were out to survey the area and test the soil for the 22-km stretch of the EPE that falls in Greater Noida’s jurisdiction.
This 22-km stretch is part of 135-km EPE that is aimed at decongesting Delhi roads. The ring road-like expressway will pass through Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and parts of Delhi. It is likely to take at least 70,000-80,000 vehicles off the city roads. The NHAI required land from 39 villages in Gautam Budh Nagar for the expressway that was proposed in 2005.
“We reached the site around 11am to conduct a survey of the land and to collect samples for soil testing. Soon after, farmers arrived in several vehicles and surrounded us. They were too many and we could not object to their unlawful activities,” said an engineer of the construction firm, Ashoka Buildcon Ltd. The NHAI had awarded the `800 crore contract to the agency in 2015.
“They abused us and held us captive for more than an hour. They allowed us to leave the site only after we pleaded with them. They warned us not to enter their agricultural fields again. They said they will not let the expressway work begin until the NHAI hiked the compensation,” the engineer said.
The team members tried contacting senior officials for help but no one obliged.
“The farmers not only threatened us but also abused us repeatedly. We thought they would thrash us since they were aggressive. They let us go only after repeated pleas,” said Ranpal Singh, Lekhpal (Patwari) for the area.
Officials of Ashoka Buildcon Ltd said farmers have been protesting the construction work since August 2015 when the contract for the project was awarded by the NHAI.
“We have not been able to do any work on the project for the past six months. Farmers freed us on the condition that until their demands for disbursement of enhanced compensation -- 64.7 % -- was met, we should not come to the site or begin any construction work,” said an official of the firm.
Greater Noida farmers said they have been offered only Rs 850 per square metre for their land and are demanding Rs 5,508 per square metre.
“I had a meeting with the farmers in some villages on February 20. They said they will support the project, which is crucial for development. I will resolve issues of other farmers, who are angry. We will ensure that the expressway work begins peacefully,” said Rajesh Kumar Singh, sub-divisional magistrate, Dadri.