VIZIANAGARAM:The farmers of the district are up in arms against the state government's proposal to construct a green field airport near Bhogapuram, alleging that the airport would destroy their lands and livelihood.
Opposing the state government's move to acquire their lands, the farmers on Friday staged a protest in front of the tahsildar office at Bhogapuram. More than 7,000 farmers participated in the protest with the support of different political parties including the ruling Telugu Desam Party and opposition YSR Congress. The protesters made it clear that they will not give up their fertile lands, which are their only livelihood.
Raising slogans against the government, they demanded that the project, which proposes to acquire about 15,000 acres of the total 26,000-acre farm land available in the mandal, should be cancelled. Earlier, the protesters staged a road blockade on the busy NH-16, which connects Chennai and Kolkata, bringing the traffic to halt for more than an hour causing inconvenience to commuters.
Though the protests went on peacefully, the sheer number of farmers gave jitters not only to the police and government authorities but also political party leaders, who were expecting around 3,000-4,000 members. The warning issued by the police, threatening to arrest those who blocked the traffic, went in vain.
The government has proposed to obtain about 15,000 acres of land under land pooling system from over 12 revenue villages and 16 panchayats in Bhogapuram mandal where a majority of the 55,000 population is dependent on agriculture.
It is learnt that the government has already assigned the land pooling work to four deputy collector rank officers, 12 tahsildars and 25 deputy tahsildars led by DRDA project director and other officials. The government plans to acquire land from A Ravivalasa, Gudepuvalasa, Chepalakancheru, Kouluwada, Tudem, Basavapalli, Mujeru, Chakivalasa, Kongavanipalem and some part of Bhogapuram village.
Recently, an all-party meeting of the villagers had passed a resolution not to allow any government official into their villages. Some officials had a first-hand experience of the villagers' wrath when they reviewed the land acquisition process at tahsildar office on Wednesday. The officials were forced to leave as the farmers raised slogans against the airport proposal and demanded basic amenities like water, roads and housing.
Sources said that each acre of agricultural land costs anywhere around Rs 30 lakh to a maximum of Rs 1.2 crore for lands located adjacent to the NH-16. But, the officials are keen on acquiring the lands under land pooling system implemented for the new capital construction in Guntur district.
"The government plans to take the consent of the people, with force. Most of the villages were affected by Hudhud cyclone and are slowly recovering, despite the government not paying the entire compensation till date. Neither the officials gave any notice nor conducted grama sabhas so far," YSRC leader K Srinivasa Raju told Express.
The human rights activists demanded to know that how the fertile lands would be taken away for the green field airport project, which would destroy the ecology and bio-diversity of the region abetted by shallow swamps and dense forests.