LAHORE: Farmers staged protest demonstrations and took out a rally on Tuesday in the Ravi project area after a joint team of the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), revenue department and police reached there to get possession of the land “acquired” by the government for the Ravi project.
The protesters, including women and children, first gathered in groups at their respective villages and raised slogans against the authority and later converged on the Kala Khatai Road (near Shahdra), where they burnt used tyres and blocked the highway against what they called forcible land acquisition through fake mutations by the government department.
However, a Ruda spokesman rejected the farmers’ claim, stating the land had been acquired by the authority after completing the procedures under the Land Acquisition Act and was being retrieved lawfully.
On the other hand, the farmers term the Ruda action unlawful given the stay orders issued already by the courts.
They also protested arrest of five farmers, including Sajjad Warraich and Babu Bhatti, urging Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to intervene to resolve the issue.
“They (Ruda and police officials) reached the project area and started taking possession of the farmers’ land by ploughing the fields with tractors. The farmers reacted and staged protests. They also blocked the Kala Khatai Road for three hours, throwing the traffic out of gear. Later, police release all the arrested farmers, except Sajjad Warraich. We don’t know where he is now,” Kissan Action Committee chairman Mustafa Rasheed told Dawn.
“Though they (officials) ploughed the fields and took possession of land, the farmers will get their land back soon from them,” he warned.
However, Ruda spokesman dispelled the impression, stating that the operation was conducted under the law in a bid to retrieve the land acquired by the government.
“We have acquired almost 90 per cent of the total land (in phase-1). There are only a few farmers who are resisting, and their legitimate land measurement is much less than what they actually possess. These few farmers are yet to receive cheques (of the compensation amount) despite the fact the government had already deposited the money with the treasury,” he explained.
He alleged that these farmers (including Mr Warraich) have ulterior motives (both personal and political) and they wanted to make the project controversial.
“Whenever we call them (farmers), they don’t come up with the documents proving their ownership of the land they possess. So what will we do in such a situation?,” the spokesman asked. However, he agreed with a proposal to form a high-level committee to look into these issues.
Meanwhile a Ruda press release on Tuesday claims the authority has paid full price of the project land to the farmers. It says the Punjab Board of Revenue (BoR) got the state land in the name of Ruda after paying its price.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2022