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Farmers call off IIT site strike

Patna, Sept. 8: Agitating farmers today called off their hunger strike for “fair compensation” against land acquired for the IIT-Patna campus at Bihta following an assurance from the district magistrate to look into their grievances.

District magistrate N. Saravana Kumar met the agitating farmers at Bihta, around 40km from here, a day after the construction work resumed at the IIT campus site. “After meeting the farmers and hearing their grievances, the district administration has assured them of settling their problems according to the permissible rules of the state government,” Saravana said.

The district magistrate also assured the farmers that labourers of the area would be given preference while engaging people in the construction work. Saravana said: “I talked to the contractor working at the construction site and directed him to give preference to the labourers of the neighbouring areas in the construction work.”

The construction work at the upcoming IIT campus came to a grinding halt on August 26 after the farmers started the agitation to press for their demand for “one project one rate”. The protest continued for 14 days. The farmers threatened to resume their agitation if the government fails to fulfil their demands.

Bhim Kumar, one of the agitating farmers, said: “Right now, we have suspended our strike. If the government fails to address our grievances, we will resume our agitation.”

He said the district magistrate assured the protesters that the state government would provide compensation for trees and hand pumps on the land acquired for the IIT campus, where the construction work continued today amid tight security.

The construction work at the site resumed early yesterday after senior officials of IIT-Patna and National Building Construction Corporation reached the campus site.

IIT-Patna was set up in 2008 at a makeshift venue in the city. The foundation stone of its campus at Bihta was laid in 2011 by then human resource development minister Kapil Sibal.