DERA BABA NANAK: While the central and Punjab governments have been blaming each other for the delay in executing the work related to the Katarpur Corridor project on the Indian side, residents of villages whose land will be acquired for the religiously significant project are apprehensive about their fate at being uprooted from the land where they have lived for decades.
While the villagers clearly welcome the Kartarpur Corridor project and are quite willing to offer their land for the project, their apprehension is about the compensation they will receive and whether it be adequate to rehabilitate themselves in another area.
The villagers have formed a committee of four villages in which the land is proposed to be acquired, as per the land acquisition notice issued by the government in the past one week, to put forward their common demand on compensation and rehabilitation.
At a meeting of the committee, in which local farmers, residents and even functionaries of farmers' organisations participated earlier this week in the presence of a visiting IANS correspondent, it was pointed out that over 200 families will be uprooted in the next three months as the government goes ahead with land acquisition and implementation of the corridor project.
The international border (IB) is just a new hundred metres from the area where the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has proposed the highway for the corridor project right up to the IB. Red flags have been put up in the agricultural fields by NHAI officials to mark the proposed highway.
"As per the rough estimates, nearly 300 acres of land will be acquired for the corridor project. Out of this, 54 acres will be required for the highway alone," Gurpreet Singh, a farmer and resident of Pakhoke village on the outskirts of Dera Baba Nanak (DBN) town, told IANS.
The most-affected villages are Pakhoke, Chandu Nangal, Dera Baba Nanak (DBN) and Jodiyan Khurd.
Farmers say that the DBN belt is well-known for cauliflower farming and the land acquisition will leave farmers without their basic livelihood.
"The farmers welcome the Kartarpur Corridor project. This is a very big thing happening and has matured after a very long time and lot of efforts. We don't want to stop the acquisition process. Our concern is how will the government compensate and rehabilitate us," another farmer, Suba Singh, pointed out.
The committee of farmers is scheduled to meet the Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner on Monday (Jan 28) on the land acquisition.
"Each farmer makes around Rs 2 lakh per year from growing cauliflower. This income will go once the land is acquired. The government should compensate the farmers not only for the market price of the land but also for the loss of income from agriculture," farmer Joginder Singh said.
Most farmers in the area have small land holdings of two to five acres and survive on growing different crops, including cauliflower.
With the central and Punjab governments under pressure to complete the corridor project in Punjab before November, when the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak Dev take place, the whole DBN area is all set for a major transformation.
The first batch of pilgrims from India for the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life and is his final resting place, is likely to cross the IB into Pakistan in November this year as both countries work out the travel modalities.
The gurdwara, which is significant for Sikh religious history and is visible from the India side on a clear day, is located around 4.5 km from the IB.