This Article is From May 17, 2011

Yamuna Expressway masterplan gives raw deal to farmers?

Greater Noida: In the last two years, western Uttar Pradesh has seen large amounts of land being acquired, especially along the Yamuna Expressway. NDTV has now accessed the draft masterplan of the Expressway, which was made as recently as this February. What it shows, in some detail, is the extent of the raw deal farmers have got, and are likely to continue getting.

The key to the masterplan is a 165-kilometre-long Expressway from Delhi to Agra which will reduce travel to two hours only.

The masterplan, however, also shows the seemingly arbitrary way in which rates for the land were fixed. Over 58,000 hectares of land has been earmarked in the draft masterplan, most of it for development. From 2009 till now, the government has acquired around 12 per cent of the land for Rs 5,720 crores. But today, this land is worth at least Rs 78,000 crores.

One of the beneficiaries of this project, which came under attack from agitating farmers, is the Jaypee Group. In exchange for constructing the Yamuna Expressway, the government has given Jaypee Group about 6,000 acres, which is the largest chunk. Of this, 2,500 acres is prime land as it is right along the Expressway.

They have also been given an additional 2,500 acres, which is the site of the upcoming Formula 1 race track - part of the sports city Jaypee is making. Again, this is prime land, but was sold to Jaypee at just Rs 1,220 per square metre.

While the race track is expected to be ready by October this year, the first residential property will be completed in three years time, although many parts of it are already up for sale. The property here is being sold for Rs 18,000 per square metre. Jaypee, however, had bought this land from the government at just about Rs 350 more than the price the government had paid to the farmer for it. This means Jaypee is selling it for 18 times that price.

Protesters say even if the development costs are factored in, there is a steep difference.

"I'm not at all happy with the compensation. It should have been more. For 15 bighas it should have been atleast Rs 15-20 lakhs. The rate is very high at other places. We have been taken for a ride. The government is very bad," said Harsh Roop, a farmer.

"Twenty-two bighas have been acquired from my family. We have got compensation at the rate of Rs 674 per square metre. The government forcibly acquired the land from us. The rate should have been at least 1200 per square metre. We neither have roads nor the 7 per cent developed land. We are not hopeful," said another farmer Sundar.

In another curious but stark variation - just across the road, east from the Japyee project, Wave Infratech paid almost Rs 4500 per square metre, which is more than four times the rate Jaypee had to pay.

Here too, the developer has advertised property at the rate of about Rs 15,500 per square metre which is 15 times the price at which they have acquired the land. Again, the current market value of these plots of land is at least 10 times the price at which they were bought from the farmers - the price developers would have paid if they had bought land directly from the farmers.

There is still an entire area, which runs in many hectares, as per the draft masterplan which needs to be acquired before it is put up for allotment.

In the face of spreading protests, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has refused to re-negotiate or relook at her land acquisition policy, but as more and more details emerge, there's increasing criticism that it's not a land acquisition policy but simply a land-grab.