Farmers stop land survey for e-way, take officials hostage

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Greater Noida: Farmers on Wednesday held 15 people hostage and refused to let them carry out their work on the Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) in Greater Noida. The hostages included Gautam Budh Nagar district officials and employees of the construction firm building the 22km stretch of the EPE in Dadri, Greater Noida.

More than a year after the Supreme Court rapped the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and directed it to expedite the execution of the EPE – a project conceived nearly a decade ago for decongesting roads in the national capital – the project hit yet another roadblock on Wednesday.

Scores of farmers demanded enhanced compensation in lieu of their land taken for the project.

According to the victims, they were surrounded by the agitating farmers, who gathered in large numbers as soon as the team reached the spot, where they were to carry out the survey and soil testing work for the project.

“We reached the site around 11am to conduct a survey of the land and to collect samples for soil testing,” an engineer of the construction firm, Ashoka Buildcon Ltd told TOI.

Ashoka Buildcon has been awarded the contract for constructing the 22km Dadri-Yamuna expressway stretch that falls in Greater Noida.

“Suddenly several farmers in vehicles reached the spot and surrounded us,” he said. “They made us sit in the centre and gathered around us refusing to let us go,” the official said.

“We tried calling the SSP and district magistrate for help but none came. When we called the local police inspector, he said he could not help us until he had additional security forces to assist him,” he said.

“We were held captive by the farmers for more than an hour and they not only threatened us but also abused us,” said Ranpal Singh, Lekhpal (Patwari) for the area.

“We thought they will harm us physically but they finally let us go after we kept pleading with them,” he said. “The farmers belonged to 39 villages of Greater Noida,” Singh added.

Officials of Ashoka Buildcon Ltd further alleged that farmers have been protesting against the construction work since August 2015 when the contract for the project was awarded by the NHAI.

“We have not been able to do any work on the project for the past six months,” he said. “The farmers freed us on the condition that until their demands for enhanced compensation of 64.7% was distributed, we would not go back to the site to carry out construction,” the official said.

According to the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority (GNIDA), the land has been directly purchased by the NHAI.

“GNIDA will not be responsible for handing out the enhanced compensation as the land has been bought directly from farmers by the NHAI, which needs to sort out the issue,” a GNIDA official said.

When contacted, Dadri DSP Anurag Singh said the farmers have done similar things before.

“We have sufficient forces deployed near Phoolpur village where the incident took place. The situation is under control,” he said.

 In Greater Noida, the EPE will connect near the Yamuna Expressway and near the integrated township of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor while on NH-91 (Grand Trunk road) it will connect near Beel Akbarpur. Noida, Greater Noida, Dadri, GT Road, Ghaziabad, Dholana, Hapur will be decongested once the e-way is in place. Expected vehicular movement on the e-way is about one lakh per day by 2021.
In the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) area too the project is facing a road block. The project requires 72 hectares of land for the EPE in the YEIDA area. According to officials, NHAI has demanded that the YEIDA land, which is estimated to cost about Rs 161 crore be given free of cost for the EPE. The NHAI also wants that the YEIDA should bear the cost of the construction of the EPE falling in the YEIDA area. YEIDA officials said that it was not possible to agree to the terms of NHAI as they had acquired the land from farmers and had to pay them an additional compensation of 64.7%. Giving the land free to NHAI would not be a viable proposition for YEIDA, officials said. This issue remains unresolved to date.
The EPE project is envisaged to provide a smooth ride between the cities of Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Sonipat, Faridabad and Palwal, as well as to de-congest Delhi roads. Estimated to cost over Rs 4,500 crore, once completed, is likely to benefit UP and Haryana as it would open up hinterlands for developing commercial areas and townships along the expressway.
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