All-India Kisan Federation (AIKF) president Prem Singh Bhangu on Sunday hailed the announcement of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to de-notify 5,300 acres acquired in 1977 for the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal and return it to the original owners.
“This step, though belated, will protect the interests of farmers, since Punjab has no surplus water (for Haryana). The bill likely to be introduced in the assembly will freeze an issue that has been used for political interests since 1982 and which the central government has kept unresolved like the question of Chandigarh, to keep the animosity between two states alive,” said Bhangu. He, however, opposed the decision of recovering the amount of compensation along with interest from the farmers, saying farmers would have to spend lakhs of rupees for making the land cultivable again.
Bhangu demanded that the 533 acres unused since 1994, out of 1,119 acquired for Sri Ram Industrial Estate Limited (SIEL) at Rajpura, be also returned to the original owners. “The de-notification of the SYL land acquired under the old acquisition Act of 1977 vindicates the stand of agitating farmers that the new Land Acquisition Act of 2013 should apply retrospectively,” said the agricultural trade union leader. The 1993 deal between the SIEL and the Punjab government required that if the company failed to develop the industrial estate within 10 years, the government would be at liberty to restore the land to farmers without compensation. The new acquisition Act reduced this period to five years.
“The farmers of eight villages of Ghanaur and Rajpura in Punjab are struggling since 2011 to get back the SIEL land that is unused for the past 22 years,” said Bhangu. The AIKF will start an agitation in the affected villages from March 19.