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Shares-for-land offer to farmers

Lucknow, Dec. 24: The Uttar Pradesh government today said farmers who lose land for the Ganga Expressway project would be offered shares in companies building the eight-lane highway even as Opposition leaders warned of another Nandigram in the making.

Chief minister Mayavati, who announced the package, said companies that had bid for the Rs 40,000-crore joint-venture scheme had agreed to offer shares up to 10 per cent of the value of the land lost.

“They have given in writing that they would offer shares to the displaced farmers,” industry secretary Atul Krishna Gupta said.

In May this year, the Jindals had offered landlosers shares in the steel plant they are planning to set up in Bengal, though the state’s industry minister later said jobs and shares were not part of the agreement with the group.

In Uttar Pradesh, Gupta said the state could even buy back the shares and reinvest them for the benefit of the farmers, but added that it needed Sebi’s nod for that.

The rehab package, however, did little to blunt the storm of criticism against the 1,047km highway that aims to connect Greater Noida with Ballia near the Bihar border.

BJP state secretary Om Prakash Singh said many families would be evicted from fertile land along the Ganga basin. “This project would turn out to be worse than Singur and Nandigram in terms of controversy,” he said and threatened an agitation.

The Samajwadi Party also warned of street protests.

Top officials dismissed fears of a flare-up like that in Bengal. “There won’t be any displacement in the west. The displacement will be minimum in east and central Uttar Pradesh,” cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh said.

The package includes vocational training for children of displaced farmers, 750 days’ minimum wage for unskilled labour (Rs 58) to families who fail to get jobs, and Rs 25,000 to those who run small businesses on the land to be acquired.

Mayavati has told CFO Asia, a Hong Kong-based magazine, she expects to come to power after the next general elections. “I expect the Bahujan Samaj Party under my leadership to take charge of governance in India,” she said. “Chances are bright for the BSP to catapult to power under my leadership.”

The Congress skirted a question on who would be its candidate for Prime Minister. “Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister and there is no vacancy,” spokesperson M. Veerappa Moily said. (PTI)

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