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Trident Land Acquisition Row

35 farmers, 5 cops hurt in clashSushil

Barnala, January 31: At least 40 persons, 35 farmers and five policemen, were injured when the police used plastic bullets, teargas shells and resorted to lathi-charge to prevent farmers from entering the land acquired by the state government for the Trident Group here today.

The two sides clashed when farmers attempted to demolish the factory's boundary wall and forcibly enter the 321 acres of land at Fatehgarh Chhanna and Dhaula villages. However, the police foiled the attempt.

The administration had deployed fire engines, riot-control and police vehicles and over 500 policemen, including mounted police, around the disputed land.

Besides, the police had set up 12 checkpoints at different places en route to the two villages from here. Agitated farmers attacked the police with sticks to gain access to the acquired land.
The conflict, which continued for about one and half hours, ended when farmer leaders asked the activists to return to a village gurdwara to hold a meeting there.

The farmers were led by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) press secretary Hardip Singh Tallewal.

SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann also participated in the agitation.
He termed the police action brutal and announced that his party would thwart the process of possession of the land by the Trident Group.

He also sought an independent inquiry by an international agency, as they had no faith in inquiries by the judiciary or government agencies.

Earlier, over 1,000 farmers from various districts assembled at the village gurdwara in the morning. They were addressed by BKU (Ugrahan) state president Joginder Singh Ugrahan, press secretary Hardip Singh Tallewal, finance secretary Darshan Singh, BKU (Dakonda) general secretary Buta Singh Burj Gill, BKU (Ugrahan) Sangrur district secretary Darbara Singh Chhajla, among others.

The leaders criticised the state government for acquiring the land and SP (Headquarters) S.P.S. Parmar told the TNS that before the police took action, Tapa SDM J.P. Singh made an announcement to the farmers to refrain from coming within 200 yards of the boundary wall of the factory, as per the local court orders.

He also termed the assembly of the farmers illegal, adding that Section 144 of the CrPC was already in force in the area.

Mr Parmar added that when farmers did not pay heed to their warnings and continued marching closer to the boundary wall, the police fired teargas shells and resorted to lathi-charge.
The police used plastic bullets in self-defence, as farmers attacked them with sticks causing injuries to five policemen, he added.

SinguritisFarming-vs-SEZ clashes bode ill

THE Singur spark seems to be igniting fires at far-off places. The latest conflagration has taken place near Barnala in which 40 persons were injured. It will be foolhardy to think as some government functionaries have done that the trouble arose merely because of the mischief played by politicians.
There seems to be genuine anger among the farmers who have been deprived of their land and vocation unceremoniously. The Centre has promised to bring about a comprehensive policy about land acquisition which will safeguard the interests of the farmers.

Unfortunately, this assurance has not seeped down to the grassroots. Instead, shortsighted leaders and bureaucrats have allowed the situation to deteriorate to the stage where they-vs-us battle-lines are being drawn. If remedial measures are not put in place earnestly, this friction can cause more tensions.

It is nobody's case that the idea of special economic zones should be abandoned. On the contrary, they are essential for the country's progress. But they should be set up in a way that instead of appearing to be an adversary, they come to be looked as a boon.

Unfortunately, the government has not looked at the plight of the farmers sympathetically. Being asked to abandon the village and land which have been their abode for generations is a heart-rending bolt from the blue.

Heavy-handed methods adopted by the government make it worse. To cap it all, the farmers have to cope with babudom which is heartless and corrupt. Obviously, the sense of being robbed is strong among those whose land is taken over.

The way land prices are shooting up all over Punjab, the compensation given to the farmers is generally peanuts. They cannot buy a chunk of land of the same size elsewhere and at the same time set up a new household.

Their feelings can be assuaged only if they are made partners in the new-found prosperity which can come to their area. Right now, they are only given a lump-sum and told to get out. Leaving your hearth and home for even a development project like a highway or a dam can be traumatic.

Doing so, so that a few moneybags can earn their millions appears downright exploitative to petty land-owning families. Ways have got to be found to be ensure that industrial units in Punjab are set up without causing grievous hurt to the farmers and their livelihood.

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posted by Bimal 2.2.07,


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