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Farmers` killing sparks fiery debate in Lok Sabha

The death of two farmers in an agitation against land acquisition in western Uttar Pradesh sparked a fiery debate in the Lok Sabha Tuesday with opposition members accusing the government of compromising peasant interests.

New Delhi: The death of two farmers in an agitation against land acquisition in western Uttar Pradesh sparked a fiery debate in the Lok Sabha Tuesday with opposition members accusing the government of compromising peasant interests.

The government allayed the doubts, saying a ministerial panel will come up soon to suggest changes in the land acquisition policy so that farmers` interests "are not jeopardised".

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha that the proposed Group of Ministers to be headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar would also suggest amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

"This will be done so that farmers` interests are not jeopardised," said Mukherjee, who is also the leader of the House.

He was responding to a 55-minute debate on farmer protests against the Uttar Pradesh government`s land acquisition drive to build the Yamuna Expressway, between Noida and Agra, that left three people dead on August 14.

MPs from various political parties condemned the police action and alleged that the state government was coercing the farmers to part with their land for private business ventures.

As soon as the House resumed Tuesday morning, a day after it was adjourned over the same issue, some 30 MPs walked towards Speaker Meira Kumar`s podium demanding a discussion.

Giving in to the relentless noisy protests, Meira Kumar allowed MPs to speak on the issue allotting them 55 minutes of the Question Hour.

MPs from the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal-United (JD-U), JD-Secular, Trinamool Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) spoke.

SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav initiated the debate and alleged that the state government had not even lodged a police report on the farmers` killings.

He demanded a bill seeking amendments to the colonial era land acquisition act.

BJP leader Rajnath Singh condemned the "forcible" land acquisition and said: "On August 14 when the nation was preparing to celebrate Independence Day, the farmers in Uttar Pradesh were showered with bullets."

He said that if farmers were willing to sell their lands they should be compensated "adequately".

JD-U chief Sharad Yadav said it was "shameful" to open fire on farmers and alleged that the Central government was also adopting the same policy of forcible land acquisition in the name of special economic zones. "Why are you not introducing the bill for amendment (in the land acquisition act)," he shouted.

JD-S leader and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda demanded the arrest of police officers who were involved in "the brutal" killing of peasants.

Deve Gowda asked the government to table the bill in the current session only and said "we won`t leave the House (at the end of the session) before seeing the bill is tabled".

He said it was not the case with only Uttar Pradesh farmers but an issue related to 65 crore farmers across India.

Congress MP Jagdambika Pal said this was not a tussle between the opposition and the government. "Land is life to a farmer and if he loses land he loses life.

"Why is this being done? For private builders? Is this not loot?" he asked, and alleged farmers had suffered whenever the BSP government came to power in the state.

RLD MP from Mathura and Ajit Singh`s son, Jayant Chawdhary accused the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh of not allowing him to visit his constituency. "But I went there clandestinely," he said.

"Farmers are ready to sacrifice their lands for the nation, like power projects or for armed forces but not for real estate brokers," he said.

The Trinamool Congress reminded the House about West Bengal`s Nandigram and Singur agitations over a similar issue in 2007 and 2008, respectively

"We are totally against land acquisition by force. This is exactly what happened in Nandigram and Singur," said Trinamool MP Sudip Bandopadhayay. In Nandigram, there was an agitation against land acquisition to set up a special economic zone, while in Singur, the prolonged resistance by a section of farmers to land acquisition forced the Tata Group to shift their Nano project to Gujarat.

Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was quick to defend the Left Front government in West Bengal. "There was no forcible land acquisition in Singur," he said and slammed the Uttar Pradesh government for killing farmers whose demands were "not unjustifiable".

BSP`s Dara Singh Chauhan defending the state government said it had decided to hike the compensation money for farmers who will now be paid Rs 570 per sq foot instead of Rs 436. The government, he said, had also decided to double the compensation for farmers killed in the protests to Rs 10 lakh.


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