Construction on the 500 acre granted by the state for a permanent campus for IIT, Patna at Bihta, 40 kms west of the state capital, has ground to a complete halt, with farmers who gave up the land on the warpath, demanding higher compensation. Many of the farmers are on a fast unto death too.
With the project held up, as all the labourers - mostly local - have vanished in solidarity, the IIT-Patna authorities are getting jittery as the deadline for the completeion of the first phase of the project by June 2014 is not likely to be met.
IIT-P was set up in 2008 at a makeshift venue in Patna where it is still functioning, while the foundation stone in Bihta was laid by the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal in 2011.
However, continuing protests and demonstrations for additional compensation for land has come as a big dampener. Of the eight farmers, who have been on fast, two- Kamal Kishore Pandey and Shahdeo Yadav - were shifted to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) after their condition deteriorated on Sunday.
“We will not leave until justice is done to us. Why did the government adopted different yardsticks to compensate different farmers for the same project, when the Bihar industrial development authority (BIADA) acquired close to 3200-acre land. The government should come out with a white paper on land acquisition in Bihta for the 1700-acre mega industrial park, which includes IIT-P, as well as other projects. Unfortunately, the government is least bothered about us,” said Ravindra Singh, 65, who is on drip along with several others.
Over 1000 farmers of Bihta and adjoining areas held a day-long mass hunger strike to press for their demands on Sunday, followed up with strong protests today, said a Bihta youth Nikhil, 25. “We are neither against IIT nor development, but the government should not try to take innocent farmers for a ride. We are not with any political party, though politicians from all parties - except JD-U - are now coming in to express solidarity. If they give their land and don't get proper compensation, they will be ruined,” he added.
IIT-P registrar Subhash Pandey told HT, that the work on the site was going on in full swing to catch the June 2014 deadline, but the sudden turn of events had put a serious questionmark.
“We have written to the chief minister, Nitish Kumar as well as the district magistrate, N Sarvana Kumar to sort out the problem, as it is an issue the IIT cannot do anything about. The state government can help solve it. The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has also been apprised of it,” he added.
Saravana Kumar, on the other hand, termed the demand of the farmers 'totally unjustified' and warned that any attempt by the farmers to forcibly stop work at the site would be dealt with as a law and order problem and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) would be applied.
Saravana said, land in three places (mauza) were acquired between 2005-2012 period.
“The rate in 2005 was naturally different from the rate in 2012. If the farmers feel, that they can get rates applicable in 2012 for the land acquired in 2005, it is not possible and the farmers should realise it,” he said, adding the government was keeping an eye on fasting farmers and ensuring proper medical care, but that should not be misconstrued as government's weakness.