Farmers protested and held a rally in the Ravi project area on Tuesday after a team from the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda), the revenue department, and the police went there to take possession of the land that the government “bought” for the Ravi project.
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Women and children, who were among the protesters, first gathered in their own villages and chanted against the government. Later, they all met up on the Kala Khatai Road (near Shahdra) and burned old tyres and blocked the highway to protest what they said was the government department’s use of fake mutations to take land by force.
A Ruda spokesman, on the other hand, said that the farmers’ claim was false because the land had been legally taken by the authority after the Land Acquisition Act was followed.
On the other hand, the farmers say that Ruda’s action is illegal because the courts have already put a stop to it.
They also spoke out against the arrest of five farmers, like Sajjad Warraich and Babu Bhatti, and asked Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to help solve the problem.
“When Ruda and the police got to the project area, they started ploughing the fields with tractors to take the farmers’ land. The farmers did something about it and held protests. They also stopped traffic on the Kala Khatai Road for three hours, which messed up the flow of traffic. Later, the police let everyone out of jail except Sajjad Warraich. We don’t know where he is now,” Mustafa Rasheed, the head of the Kissan Action Committee, told Dawn.
“Even though they (the officials) ploughed the fields and took the land, the farmers will soon get it back from them,” he said.
But a Ruda spokesman put an end to that idea by saying that the operation was done legally to try to get the land back that the government had bought.
“We’ve bought almost 90% of the land there is” (in phase-1). Few farmers are fighting back, and the amount of land they are legally allowed to have is much less than what they really have. Even though the government had already put the money in the treasury, these few farmers have not yet received checks for their compensation, he said.
He said that these farmers, including Mr. Warraich, have personal and political reasons for being against the project, and that they wanted to make it controversial.
“When we call them (farmers), they don’t show us the papers that prove they own the land they have. “So, what will we do if something like that happens?” asked the spokesman. But he agreed with the idea of putting together a high-level committee to look into these problems.
In the meantime, a Ruda press release from Tuesday says that the authority has paid the farmers the full price for the project land. It says that the state land was given to Ruda by the Punjab Board of Revenue (BoR) after Ruda paid for it.