Land protest rocks airport

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  • Published 22.09.09

Ranchi, Sept. 22: Over 100 air passengers who had arrived from New Delhi this afternoon were held up for more than an hour at the newly refurbished airport terminal as a group of farmers blocked the exit to protest against land being acquired for the Birsa Munda Airport’s expansion.

While 90 passengers arrived around 1pm by Air India (IC-809) flight from New Delhi, 30 arrived by an MDLR (No 171) flight half an hour later. But over 800 villagers owing allegiance to the CPM’s farmers’ wing, Kisan Sabha, had gathered there from 1pm blocking the entry and exit points, demanding that notices issued for land acquisition near the airport be withdrawn.

Though the district administration had made elaborate arrangements to avoid inconveniencing passengers, deputing Rapid Action Force (RAF) jawans and a good number of district armed policemen, it could not prevent demonstrators from damaging some of the vehicles that had come to pick up the arriving passengers held up for one-and-a-half hours .

“Windows of at least two vehicles were damaged before the police could restrain the demonstrators. I had to walk for a kilometre to board the car that had come to take me,” a passenger who saw the vandalism said, requesting anonymity.

Airport director Raju Raghavendra Kumar admitted the blockade, but added that it did not last long. “The problem was sorted out with the help of the district administration soon,” he claimed.

Most of the villagers were from Chandaghasi, Hethu and Kutte, areas which have been notified for land acquisition vide Ranchi District Gazette no 31, 32 and 37 published on July 2 for the extension of the Birsa Munda Airport.

“It is wrong to acquire new villages, spread across 332 acres, without settling the old dispute over 1,121 acres with the Union government. These plots were taken over during the freedom struggle citing ‘defence of the country’ on April 25, 1942,” alleged Yogendra Sahu, a resident of Hethu village.

Sub-divisional officer Suchi Tyagi said the villagers agreed to call off their protest when the airport authority sought 15 days’ time to get back to them. “The situation was always under control and I do not have any information of any vehicle being damaged,” she claimed.