Border area farmers, whose land falls between zero line and the barbed fence, have said that the compensation worth Rs 150 crore, recently approved by the Centre for them, was not enough to end their woes.
However, the approval has raised a ray of hope for them in getting adequate compensation.
When militancy was at its peak in Punjab, the government had acquired as many as 600 acres of farm land situated along the 553-km long international border falling in all border districts of the state to install barbed fence and provide a passage for security forces. This land was owned by farmers of as many as 220 villages.
The acquisition had increased woes of the farmers, who had already been victimised by the 1947 partition and various Indo-Pak wars, as their 21,000-acre land, situated beyond the barbed fence (from Bamyal to Abohar), and on which their livelihood depended, was greatly affected.
The victim farmers fought a long legal battle to get adequate compensation and finally with the intervention of the Supreme Court, a special tribunal was constituted under the supervision of additional and sessions judge of Tarn Taran Darbari Lal last year, which paved the way for the compensation. After getting approval, this tribunal has asked the farmers to claim for compensation by October 7.
The compensation is being given as per collector rates, which has further raised eyebrows of farmers. The farmers want the compensation to be given as per the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, which was passed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2013. Under this Act, there is a prevision to compensate the landowner with four times of the market rate.
Reacting on the development, Border Area Sangharsh Committee president Arsal Singh Asal said, “As per norms, the victim farmers should be paid `20,000 per acre for the land falling in-between zero line and fencing”. “Giving relief to us, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had approved `10,000 per acre, against which the Centre and the state government moved the Supreme Court expressing their helplessness in giving this amount. The SC again assigned the case back to the high court. As the tribunal is yet to submit its report in this regard, the case has been pending,” he said.
Secondly, he said, the Border Security Force (BSF) has set up border outposts (BOPs) and the army has built a defence wall on their land, but the farmers have not been compensated for same so far.
“Farmers in the border belt are suffering a lot, but their grievances have never been redressed sincerely. The committee constituted underthen chief secretary SL Kapoor assessed the problems in 1988 when the barbed fence was installed. So, woes of farmers should be taken in view as per the recommendations of this committee,” said farmer activist Rattan Singh Randhawa.
Punjab Border Area Farmers Welfare Society president Raghbir Singh Bhangala welcomed the move, terming it as a ray of hope for affected farmers.