Agra: Farmers in Uttar Pradesh agitating for higher compensation for their lands acquired for the Yamuna Expressway have called for a statewide shutdown on Aug 25 while the Rashtriya Lok Dal is planning a separate rally in New Delhi the next day.
The shutdown was announced Sunday evening at a meeting in Jikarpur in Aligarh district and the proposal was endorsed by all parties opposed to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), including the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In Agra, farmers leaders at Chalesar in Etmadpur sub-division, some 20 km from this city, blocked traffic for over an hour and announced a plan to lay siege to the Jaypee Palace hotel on Fatehabad road Aug 26. The Jaypee Group is building the expressway and townships near it.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi paid a surprise visit Saturday to Tappal village in Aligarh district, the epicentre of peasants` recnt protests, and assured farmers that he would raise their concerns at appropriate forums.
On Sunday, expelled Samjwadi Party leader Amar Singh and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Jayant Choudhary interacted with farmer groups in various villages between Agra and Aligarh and assured complete support to their cause.
Choudhary, in his speeches at half a dozen villages, urged farmers not to trade off their "mother" (agricultural land) and asked them to join a massive rally in New Delhi Aug 26.
Farmers have been protesting at Tappal for the last three weeks demanding a substantial enhancement in the compensation offered to them for their lands acquired to build the 165-km Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway. Two farmers and a police constable were killed when police opened fire on protesting farmers in the area Aug 14.
The expressway, which is expected to reduce the driving time between New Delhi and Agra to about 90 minutes, will pass through Gautam Buddha Nagar (Noida), Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar (Hathras) and Mathura districts, and involves acquisition of land in 115 villages.
A total of 2,500 hectares is to be acquired for the development of the expressway - 500 hectares each in Noida, Aligarh and Agra and 1,000 hectares in Gautam Buddha Nagar.
The compensation amount was increased from Rs.449 per square metre to Rs.570 per square metre. But farmers refused to budge from the demand for compensation at the rate of Rs.880 per square metre that was paid in Greater Noida.
Chief Minister Mayawati Sunday asked politicians "interested in the welfare of farmers" to seek amendments of the land acquisition act rather then visiting trouble spots.