THULLUR (GUNTUR):The visit of social activist Medha Patkar, who had spearheaded the ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ to save the land and homes of several hundreds of people in Narmada Valley spread across Maharashtra and Gujarat, seems to have acted as a morale booster for the farmers in different villages of Thullur mandal in the capital region of Andhra Pradesh. And, several of them have been emboldened to resolve not to part with their land for the construction of the state capital.
Several farmers in different villages of the capital region told Medha Patkar, during her visit to the capital region along with those who are leading people’s agitations in different states under the banner of her National Alliance of People’s Movements, that they had signed the consent letters under pressure and did not wish to part with their land.
Woman farmers and farmhands in Undavalli said they had submitted their objections to land pooling, but there were some who had given the ‘consent letters’ under pressure.
’Everyday ministers and officials used to land at farmers’ doorsteps to cajole them or bring pressure on them in different ways to part with their land. Threats by the CM himself to invoke the Land Acquisition Act, which would make farmers suffer losses, had forced the farmers to give the ‘consent letters’, explained Mangalagiri MLA A Ramakrishna Reddy while translating the farmers’ replies to the questions posed by Medha Patkar.
Farmers in Undavalli and Penumaka told Medha that around 120 varieties of crops were grown on their riverfront land like nowhere else in the country. “We are tenant farmers and we earn handsomely to sustain our families. Our incomes are more than those from whom we lease the lands”, said K Sambi Reddy offering roses, which he had grown in his farm, to Medha.
A Subba Reddy, who owns a banana plantation, said they got groundwater at just 10 feet below the ground and that the Krishna river water helped sustain the crops throughout the year. “What will we do if we lose this land? We only know farming and nothing else. I don’t think I can earn more anywhere else. I do not want to part with my land”, he asserted. The sentiment was echoed by T Nageswara Rao, a small farmer in Venkatayapalem.
Meanwhile, B Sambasiva Rao, who had given the letter of consent to part with 118 acres of his land, claimed that he had done so under pressure. “I do not want to part with my land and have asked the consent letter back,” he told Medha.
In Talaipallem, when Medha was told that assigned lands were being compensated less than ‘patta’ lands, she said such disparities would only polarise people and it was not good for the society. She was shocked to find that the government had not got the ‘lanka’ land given to the SC farmers registered under the cooperative societies contrary to the rules. “It seems a ploy to grab those lands for free, which is atrocious,” she commented.
While interacting with some women in Udandarayapalem, she found that they too did not want the land to be taken away from them as they would lose their livelihood. Many of those women are farmhands, who earn Rs 200 to Rs 400 a day. “It is better for is to die before the land, our only source of livelihood, is taken away”, they shouted.
Suresh, a youth from the village, who was questioned by police allegedly as part of the intimidating tactics, narrated his harrowing experience to the NAPM leaders.
Later, addressing a public meeting in Penumaka, Medha Patkar asked the capital region farmers not to lose heart as no one could snatch away their land, as they had not signed any agreement with the government. She assured her support to their struggle to protect their land and legacy.