Bro­ken prom­ises

The Land Pool Scheme of the Andhra Pradesh gov­ern­ment to ac­quire land for the new state cap­i­tal is turn­ing out to be a night­mare for farm­ers

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - JITENDRA

Three years af­ter their land was taken for Andhra Pradesh's new cap­i­tal, farm­ers in Amar­a­vati are dis­ap­pointed over non-ful­fil­ment of prom­ises

ANDHRA PRADESH'S Land Pool­ing Scheme (lps) was touted to be a model land ac­qui­si­tion ini­tia­tive. But three years af­ter it was launched, it has left farm­ers with no land or job. And the rise in liv­ing costs has ren­dered the com­pen­sa­tion barely enough to sur­vive.

When Andhra Pradesh was di­vided in 2014 and it emerged that Hy­der­abad would cease to be the state cap­i­tal in a decade, Chief Min­is­ter N Chan­drababu Naidu de­cided to use lps over the more strin­gent Right to Fair Com­pen­sa­tion and Trans­parency in Land Ac­qui­si­tion, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Re­set­tle­ment Act, 2013 to ac­quire land for build­ing a new cap­i­tal at Amar­a­vati. Be­tween June 2014 and Fe­bru­ary 2015, over 13,000 hectares (ha) of agri­cul­tural land was “pooled” from over 25,000 land­hold­ers in 28 vil­lages.

The gov­ern­ment opted for lps be­cause it is much eas­ier to im­ple­ment. The land ac­qui­si­tion Act re­quires the gov­ern­ment to take con­sent of 70 per cent of the to­tal af­fected fam­i­lies for un­der­tak­ing a public work on agri­cul­tural land, but un­der lps the gov­ern­ment can ne­go­ti­ate the terms of trans­fer with in­di­vid­ual landown­ers. For in­stance, Y Lak­shmi Narayan, a farmer of Lin­gaya­palem vil­lage in Vi­jayawada dis­trict, gave 1.5 ha of his farm­land to the gov­ern­ment and was promised R2 lakh a year for 10 years (with a 10 per cent an­nual rise) and re­turn of 30 per cent of his land (which was to be de­vel­oped to have road con­nec­tiv­ity; power, wa­ter and sewage con­nec­tions; and, med­i­cal and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in close vicin­ity) in eight months.

“Ini­tially the com­pen­sa­tion money seemed fine, but the gov­ern­ment did not take into ac­count the phe­nom­e­nal rise in cost of liv­ing. Elec­tric­ity rates have more than dou­bled, from R2.5 a unit to R6, while the cost of rice has risen from R25 a kg to R45. Same is the case with the cost of com­mute. Ear­lier, auto-rick­shaws charged R150 for a

15 km ride; now they charge R400. Worse, the promised de­vel­oped plot is not likely to be de­liv­ered any­time soon,” Narayan laments.

He lost his mother and brother in the last two years and says he spent more than R1.25 lakh on their med­i­cal ex­penses,which have also shot up ex­po­nen­tially. “If the

"It's been three years and we don't know when we will get plots in re­turn for the land we gave. The gov­ern­ment had also promised free health­care and ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties, but th­ese too are not to be seen" - Y Lak­shimi Narayan, farmer Lin­gaya­palem vil­lage, Gun­tur dis­trict ‹

"The cadres of the rul­ing party spread a ru­mour that those who do not give up land un­der the Land Pool Scheme would later be forced to give it up with­out com­pen­sa­tion. This helped them get land" - G Naresh Reddy, farmer, Penu­mak vil­lage, Gun­tur dis­trict ‹

gov­ern­ment had pro­vided free health­care fa­cil­i­ties, as it promised, I could have saved my mother and brother, and es­caped be­ing neck deep in debt,” says Narayan.

Sim­i­lar is the story of J Suresh of Ud­dayam­ra­palem vil­lage, who was forced to earn liveli­hood by be­com­ing a daily wage labourer. Suresh gave 0.8 ha of ir­ri­gated land and got R1.22 lakh a year in re­turn. “I had to take care of my six fam­ily mem­bers with this amount,” he says. There are many oth­ers like him who have farm­ing skills, but find them­selves un­suited to other pro­fes­sions and end up be­com­ing daily wage labour­ers at con­struc­tion sites which are mush­room­ing af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the new cap­i­tal.

Wrong choice

When Andhra Pradesh de­cided to have a new cap­i­tal, the Union Min­istry of Home Af­fairs con­sti­tuted a com­mit­tee to look for op­tions. The com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted its re­port in Au­gust 2014 and rec­om­mended one ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal city and de­vel­op­ment of big­ger cities as in­dus­trial, in­vest­ment and tech­nol­ogy hubs. It also rec­om­mended Mar­tur-Vinukonda-Don­akonda re­gion in south­ern part of Andhra Pradesh for cap­i­tal and cau­tioned against build­ing the cap­i­tal in the well-ir­ri­gated, fer­tile Vi­jayawadaGun­tur re­gion in cen­tral Andhra Pradesh, which is used for agri­cul­ture. But Naidu ig­nored the ad­vice. Farm­ers say they watched while stand­ing crops of sug­ar­cane and maize were up­rooted un­der po­lice pro­tec­tion to make way for build­ings.

“The cadres of the rul­ing party spread a ru­mour that those who do not give up land un­der lps would be forced to give it up with­out com­pen­sa­tion. This helped them get land,” says G Naresh Reddy, who owns 0.8 ha in Penu­mak vil­lage but did not give it to the gov­ern­ment. He has been or­gan­is­ing farm­ers of Penu­mak and Un­davalli vil­lages to protests against lps. “We are get­ting threats from the rul­ing Tel­ugu De­sam Party cadres and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to de­scribe our land as dry, in­stead of ir­ri­gated, so that the gov­ern­ment can buy it at a lower rate,” claims Reddy.

M Se­sha­giri Rao, pres­i­dent of Cap­i­tal Re­gion Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (crff), con­tests the claim of lps be­ing a suc­cess and says it vi­o­lates con­sti­tu­tional rights of the peo­ple be­cause it de­nies them liveli­hood. crff has also filed a com­plain with the World Bank to stop fund­ing projects in Amar­a­vati.

“A World Bank team is vis­it­ing next month in re­sponse to the com­plaints to as­sess the vi­o­la­tion in pro­vid­ing re­set­tle­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties to the af­fected peo­ple,” claims Rao. He also says that the gov­ern­ment might have com­pen­sated farm­ers, but it has no plan for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of vil­lage ar­ti­sans and land­less labour­ers. “There are around 140,000 af­fected peo­ple but gov­ern­ment took into ac­count only 100,000 farm­ers,” says Rao. Tele­phone calls by Down To Earth to the Cap­i­tal Re­gion De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sioner, Sreed­har Cherukuri, in­quir­ing about landown­ers’ com­plaints against lps went unan­swered.

Sev­eral cor­rup­tion cases have also been re­ported in the past two years. In Au­gust, Y S R Ja­gan­mo­han Reddy, Leader of Op­po­si­tion in the Andhra Pradesh Assem­bly, raised the is­sue of ar­bi­trary al­lot­ment of land to rul­ing party lead­ers and bu­reau­crats.

Caste play

Re­mark­ably, al­most the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of the 28 vil­lages where land ac­qui­si­tion is be­ing un­der­taken be­longs to the Kamma caste, the caste of Chief Min­is­ter Naidu. Ex­perts say play­ing the caste card helped the chief min­is­ter con­vince peo­ple to give away land. Party lead­ers from th­ese vil­lages have also been of­fered posts in the gov­ern­ment to man­age what­ever dis­sent was there at the ground level. For in­stance, when this re­porter vis­ited Be­lakonde vil­lage in Gun­tur, mar­ginal farm­ers were quite vo­cal about their prob­lems, but big landown­ers re­fused to say any­thing against lps. “Every­one is happy in this vil­lage over lps. I have con­trib­uted my 2.4 ha and am happy,” says P Kotesh Rao of Be­lakonde vil­lage. He also in­formed the vil­lage head, Nar­simha Rao, about the ar­rival of this re­porter. “Avoid talk­ing to vil­lage res­i­dents. I will come and talk you in de­tail later,” Rao said over phone.

Vi­jayawada-based so­cial ac­tivist Ramakrishna Raju says tdp cadres are try­ing to muz­zle dis­sent and keep brief­ing the me­dia about the “suc­cess” of lps. “Th­ese cadres keep telling farm­ers that the chief min­is­ter’s ini­tia­tives will help them be­come mil­lion­aire overnight.”

“If the chief min­is­ter does not de­liver what he had promised, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions would be vis­i­ble in the 2019 Union elec­tions,” warns Narayan.


The road to the pro­posed Andhra Pradesh cap­i­tal of Amar­a­vati is lined with posters that claim it is a city of hope. But dis­placed farm­ers tell a dif­fer­ent story

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