Land row blocks road to airport - Claimants want state to acquire acres at present rates

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  • Published 14.07.12

Birsa Munda Airport turned into a volatile mini-Nagri on Friday as a land acquisition protest rally led by 150 villagers blocked the approach road from 11am, held up traffic for over 90 minutes, and when anger swelled, occasionally attacked passing cars with sticks.

If in Nagri villagers are refusing to give up their agricultural land for three campuses, the scenario near Birsa airport is more problematic.

Here, around 100 households of Hethu, Hundur, Kutetoli and Chandaghasi villages are claiming that since decades, their land — 546.24 acres out of 1605.21 acres of the total airport area — had not been formally acquired. They want the government to acquire it by paying them compensation according to today’s market rates.

This apart, villagers don’t want to part with any more land. They want the state government to scrap the fresh land acquisition bid of 373 acres, the process of which has started in December 2006 for airport expansion.

They also demanded airport jobs for displaced farmers.

The gathering of villagers near the airport’s terminal building stayed peaceful for an hour after which lathi-wielding youths resorted to vandalism, targeting vehicles. The roadblock lifted at 12.40pm after sub-divisional magistrate Shekhar Jamuar and Hatia assistant superintendent of police Indrajit Mahatha rushed to the site and requested protesters to disperse, assuring them that their problems will be looked into.

“The district administration will try and solve the issue in three months,” Jamuar told the protesters.

It lifted the roadblock, but the promise is easier made than kept.

On one hand, villagers want their land to be acquired at present-day rate that will be Rs 2 lakh per decimal, while on the other hand, they do not want the fresh acquisition bid to make any headway.

Ranchi DC Vinay Kumar Choubey also said that he “will look into the matter and resolve the issue soon”, but protesters will not be convinced.

They said nothing had been done since decades, though the issue of compensation for the 546.24 acres started during World War II when the British “requisitioned” the land for an airstrip and stayed unresolved when the airport came up in the mid-1960s.

“In 1996, before Jharkhand came into being, the Ranchi bench of Patna High Court directed the then state government to formally acquire the land, but till today it has not happened. We continue to pay land revenue to the state government,” claimed Ajit Oraon, president of Birsa Munda Airport Visthapit Morcha.

A few years ago, then revenue and land reforms minister Dulal Bhuiyan had assured the villagers, saying he would solve the problem soon and had even set up a committee for a solution.

Jamuar, interacting with the villagers on behalf of deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey, bought three months time from them to solve the land row, following which the agitating villagers withdrew roadblock.

The saving grace was that the Delhi-Ranchi-Delhi Jet Airways flight, which landed and took off from the airport during the agitation, did not have to encounter any hiccup. “No passenger was reported late for the flight,” said a Jet Airways official.

Passengers, apart from those whose cars had been attacked, appeared blasé.

“Protests near airport are very normal. Villagers often attack vehicles with lathis. The problem should be solved soon so that passengers do not face harrowing time here,” said one.