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Riot on land for Reliance

Lucknow, July 8: Two thousand farmers of three villages in Dadri today came out to till the land that has been acquired for a Reliance power project in an attempt to get it back.

The protest, similar to those the Bengal government is facing as it tries to take over agricultural land for industry, turned violent and ended in police firing.

The farmers were protesting that their land had been acquired cheap for what is tipped to be Asia’s largest gas-based power plant, spread across 2,500 acres and seven villages. The government had paid Rs 1.5 lakh per acre when the farmers insist the market price of the land ' which is close to Ghaziabad and the Noida industrial area ' should be at least Rs 3.5 lakh an acre.

Around 9 am, the farmers, who are being led by V.P. Singh’s Jan Morcha, assembled at Bachera Khurd village and announced they would till the land that has been handed over to the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Energy Generation Limited.

As they trooped to the adjoining plot, police stepped in and rained lathis on the farmers, who hit back by stoning the policemen and setting ablaze a jeep, witnesses said. The police then fired in the air.

Twenty farmers were admitted to hospital with injuries and 80 were arrested.

“Mulayam Singh Yadav’s is not a government by a political party. It is a government being run by corporate directors. Our agitation for the farmers’ dues will continue,” said former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, who was arrested along with Raj Babbar near the Delhi-Ghaziabad Road when they were on their way to the protest site around 11.30 am.

“Reliance should have purchased the 2,500 acres of private land from the open market, rather than the Uttar Pradesh Development Council resorting to illegal means for favouring any industrialist.”

Reliance officials declined to comment.

The land acquisition cost was to be shared 60:40 between the government and the company, with any increase in cost to be borne by the state.

Chief minister Mulayam said he was not aware of any agitation in Dadri against the Rs 10,000-crore project.

But Shailendra Pratap Singh, DIG Ghaziabad, confirmed the lathicharge and firing. He said the farmers might have been injured in the lathicharge or a stampede that followed.

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