Around 15,000 people in five villages in Rajasthans Hanumangarh district have been waiting for 25 years for a clarity on land acquisition for an Air Force station.
In 1993, the government had proposed the acquisition of 7,600ha of land for the project from five villagesresidential land in Moter, Dhandhusur and Banasar and agricultural land in Bangasar and Dheerdesar.
The acquisition process was initiated several times in the past. On May 24, 1997, the Department of Home Affairs in Rajasthan issued a notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, stating the area of land to be acquired and invited feedback on the same. The people whose land was to be acquired were ready to give up their land provided they got a fair compensation.
The Hanumangarh district administration prepared an estimate of Rs 159 crore as compensation for 5,916.82ha of land to be acquired for the project and submitted it to the state government in 1999. The state approved the compensation on May 20, 2000, and the matter was forwarded to the Central government.
In response to a question in Parliament on April 25, 2001, on whether the government was planning to acquire 7,600ha of land for use by the Indian Air Force, then defence minister Jaswant Singh said that the proposal was under consideration and added that the "question of payment of compensation does not arise at this stage as the land is yet to be acquired".
Almost two decades have passed, but the Centre is yet to take a decision. No information has been conveyed to the state government or the district administration, and the farmers remain clueless about the fate of their land.
The villagers claim that since 1993, when the project was first announced, not a single new development project has started in the village due to the uncertainty over the land acquisition; pipelines that supply drinking water are in need of repair, no new schools have opened, and electricity supply to the villages have been irregular.
Rajesh Sharma, head of Moter village, told Land Conflict Watch, We have lived with this uncertainty for decades. We are living in fear of losing the roof over our heads any time. We can neither renovate our houses nor use our land for any purpose. Nobody knows when we will be handed an eviction notice. He adds that nobody wants to get their daughters married to boys in our villages because of this uncertainty." The district administration claims that it has written to the Department of Home Affairs several times for release of the compensation amount but have not got a response.
The tehsildar of the region, Kasturi Lal, said, We have no idea if the Air Force wants our land or not. There has been no recent correspondence with them.
When contacted by Land Conflict Watch, Colonel Sambit Ghosh, the Army spokesman in Jodhpur, said that he has no information on the matter.