Farmers from 44 villages along the Indo-Pakistan border in the Ajnala sub-division are in no mood to give up their claim over even an inch of land, which they have been cultivating since early 60s when the call for 'growing more food' to feed hungry millions was given.
Acting on a judicial court's order, the government intends to acquire 10,868 acres of land, which belongs to the forest department. The farmers, backed by various Kisan organisations, organised a protest in Ajnala town on Monday and made it clear to the government they are ready to go to any extent to stop the administration from acquiring thousands of acres of land. The protest, which began from Tanana village 21 days ago, has reached Ajnala. A protest has been planned at the district headquarters on July 30 if the government does not relent.
Expressing helplessness over the matter, the official machinery said the land has to be acquired following the orders of a judicial court. By virtue of the court order, the land in question belongs to the forest department and not to those who had been tilling it all these years, it said.
Spearheading the agitation on behalf of farmers are Jamuhri Kisan Sabha and Kirti Kisan Union. Other farmer groups, too, have announced their decision to join the July 30 protest. Addressing the protest rally, Jamuhri Kisan Sabha president Satnam Singh Ajnala said the affected farmers had time and again been promised that they would be made legal owners of the land. "But, to this day, successive governments have failed to make efforts in this direction, which ultimately led to the matter being decided in the court," he added.
Ajnala pointed out that this was not barren but productive and fertile land, from which farmers were getting two crops a year. Despite facing numerous hardships, including floods in the Ravi, they continued to till the land and contributed to the food basket of the nation, he added.
He said in 1968 and then again in 1971, notifications were issued by the state government for acquisition of the land, which belonged to the forest department. However, no one came forward to acquire the land and the farmers continued to till it, Ajnala said, while questioning the right of the government to acquire the land after so many years.
"Forests can come up on barren land, which is not suitable for cultivation, or trees can be planted along roads and canals. Why turn fertile and cultivable land into forests?" said Satnam Singh. Punjab CPM president Mangat Ram Pasla also addressed the rally and lambasted the government for sitting silently on the issue all these years.
Protest over land acquisition for water treatment plant
A similar protest was organised by Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Jamuhri Kisan Sabha and Dehati Mazdoor Sabha at the sub-divisional town of Baba Bakala to protest the acquisition of 14 kanals and 11 marlas of land in Kaler Ghuman village for setting up a water treatment plant for Rayya town.
Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Daud, who is leading the protest, told HT that the land in question was the joint holding of nine families comprising 63 members. They are poor and most earning hands in these families are daily wagers or farmers, who earn their living by selling whatever little they grow on little land available to them.
He claimed that instead of displacing these families, land for the treatment plant could be acquired from the Rayya nagar panchayat, which owns 23 acres of land. Even the Kaler Ghuman panchayat owns 10 acres, but the village sarpanch has targeted these poor families instead of making the panchayat land available for the plant, he added.