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Dadri: Next Nandigram in the making
Harmeet Shah Singh in Dadri | April 08, 2007 17:16 IST
Less than 20 km from gleaming industrial parks, fragmented protests over the years against the acquisition of farm land to stimulate development have coalesced into a key election campaign issue in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh.
As Nandigram in West Bengal became a lightning rod for criticism of economic reforms, candidates in Dadri, home to more than 200 villages, are wooing farmers with a promise that they will not allow the forcible acquisition of land to set up industries or plush residential enclaves.
Farmers to whom the lands belong complain that they have been caught unaware by the acquisition process.
"The compensation awarded to farmers is nowhere near the market price of land. There is no transparent move to uphold in full the rights of those who have been displaced because of this land acquisition," BJP legislator Nawab Singh Nagar, seeking to retain his seat on the same plank, said as he walked into a dusty village of the constituency for his campaign.
Last year, V P Singh and Communist Party of India general secretary A B Bardhan were arrested by police as they headed to Dadri for a protest against alleged inadequate compensation to villagers whose land was acquired for a mega power project of Reliance.
"There have been similar protests and demonstrations in Dadri since Noida and Greater Noida came into being. But farmers continue to suffer. Nobody is genuinely concerned about their welfare," said Congress candidate Raghuraj Singh.
As elections in Uttar Pradesh are often linked to casteist politics, almost all political parties in the fray have fielded candidates from the Gujjar community, which makes up a majority of Dadri's population of more than 700,000.
Poor power supplies and roads in Dadri are issues that contestants opposed to incumbent Nagar are using in their attempt to unseat the former state minister, who has been a legislator for two successive terms.
"Ten years have passed since he became a legislator and there is no railway bridge in Dadri. Commuters are stuck when the main railway gate is down. Roads are too poor to pass, they are deplorable," said a supporter of BSP candidate Satbir Singh.
People also complain about rising prices of food staples.
"Farming has been a traditional occupation, but it is in jeopardy because of land acquisition. And jobs in Noida are meant for highly educated professionals and not farmers," said Kishan Tripathy, a Jan Morcha supporter.