Apprehensive that they too might be subjected to the same treatment as meted out to the farmers of Polepalli where the land was taken away for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), residents of 10 villages in Medak and Warangal districts are up in arms.
Their agitation has come in the wake of the move of the state government to acquire about 8,000 acres of land belonging to them for an industrial park. The park is to come up under the aegis of the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC), an entity that is already mired in controversies due to the Emaar scam and Jagan assets cases.
The apprehensions heightened after chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and Union commerce minister Anand Sharma announced at the recent Partnership Summit that a manufacturing hub would come up in Gajwel mandal in Medak district and Cheryal in Warangal district, the areas that fall in the vicinity of these villages.
One month into the announcement, the residents of these 10 villages are gearing up to oppose the entry of officials from revenue and industries departments either to conduct a survey or pursue any other activity related to the proposed industrial park.
In a series of protests against the industrial park during the last few weeks, the villagers staged a rasta roko on the Rajiv Rahadari, submitted memoranda to MPs and held meetings to highlight the issue. Now, they are planning to plunge into direct action in order to save their fertile land.
To lead the struggle against the proposed industrial park, the people of the villages have invited Surepalli Sujata, a sociology professor of Satavahana University, Karimnagar, who spearheaded the anti-SEZ movement. Sujatha says that unless the move to set up a park is nipped in the bud other villages may also end up like Polepalli where ousted farmers were left without any rehabilitation and livelihood options.
Narredla Srinivas Reddy, a young farmer of Komaravalli village said , said the proposal to set up an industrial park was a conspiracy. Barring few hundred acres, the land is owned by small and marginal farmers. which if acquired deprive farmers of the only livelihood source like the Polepalli farmers, Srinivas Reddy said.
The campaigners plan to launch the next phase of the agitation after March the village festival, says K.Srinivas Goud, sarpanch of Gaurayapalli village who even threatened that the villagers would resort to mass suicides if they are forced to give up their precious land holdings.
What has shocked the farmers is that the proposal is appearing on the horizon at a time when all of them are eagerly waiting for water from the Devadula lift irrigation scheme. Canals have already been dug. Once water is released, our area will become a gold mine for farmers,” says K.Sudhakar Rao, an advocate activist mobilizing the villagers against the SEZ.