LAHORE: A number of farmers attacked a revenue department team for announcing, what they say, meagre rates of their land being acquired for the mega Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project.
As farmers thrashed a patwari, other team members, led by the land acquisition collectors, fled and took cover in the quarters of Babakwala rest house, Kala Khatai Road of Ferozewala.
“We reject the rate of Rs200,000 per acre located in the riverbed. The rates of the land other than the riverbed has been fixed Rs1.35 million per acre which is really nothing,” farmer Nazir Awan said.
According to the land acquisition award, the government fixed Rs200,000 to Rs2.3 million per acre subject to location in the mauzas of Riyanagar Kalan, Chauhan, Dhanoiya, Shedowal, Babakwal, Jada, Qadiyan, Rasoolpur, Khairdinpur, Ayanagar Khurd, Nirapur, Ratanwal and Kachi Kotli.
“We reject and oppose this land acquisition plan. We will see them (the government) how they get our precious land forcibly from us against cheaper rates,” he warned.
He said the farmers had tried hard to convince the government to get their land at reasonable rates.
“If the government wants to develop housing projects on our land, it must talk to us and give us market rates. It is so simple,” he said.
The team, led by collectors Sajjad Qureshi and Zafar Jatial, was at the scene to announce the award (land acquisition, rates, area etc) under the land acquisition act. As soon as the officials started announcing the award, farmers exchanged words with the team, and some farmers started ransacking the chairs. A few of them slapped a patwari forcing the other members to leave the scene.
Mazhar Abbas, a spokesperson for the farmers committee, said later the police intervened and controlled the situation. “The protesters also threw official files on the floor in protest,” he added.
Talking to Dawn, Sheikhupura Deputy Commissioner Asghar Ali Joyia said they had got an FIR lodged against the farmers for manhandling the patwari.
Mr Joyia was of the view that the impression being created by the farmers that the land was being acquired on cheaper rates was not based on facts. Under the schedule, the rate of the riverbed acre is Rs200,000. This type of land is considered barren land and not the cultivated one.
“There are also some chunks of land for which the government is paying Rs5.5 million per acre. So how can we pay millions for the land falling in the riverbed?” he maintained.
The DC said being the district collector his role was limited to give compensation of the farmers’ land as per scheduled government rates.
“We can pay them better rates if the government announces a special package for the land acquisition,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2021