Guwahati: Months after Sikkim got its first Airport, it has brought trouble to the State. More than 350 farmers in Sikkim have started an agitation, demanding compensation for the land they claim was damaged during construction of the state’s first airport.
The agitation which is supported by the main opposition party in the state, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), is likely to gain steam in the coming days. The agitators have plans to display black flags outside the airport.
The affected people, almost all of whom were farmers, have alleged that their land, aggregating to around 300 acres, has been rendered unfit for cultivation. This 300 acres of land was not officially acquired for the project but was damaged during construction, the farmers have alleged. They have also moved the Sikkim high court.
Noteworthy that the government officially acquired 201 acres for the terminal building, runway, staff quarters etc. and compensated land losers.
Talking to media one of the agitator Hari Prasad Adhikari said, “We were compensated for the damage done to our home. But the damage to our land, which was not acquired yet damaged, has deprived us of livelihood,” Adhikary owns the land along with his elder brother Nirmal Adhikari.
The land owned by the Adhikaris is located adjacent to the boundary of the airport. The brothers claiming that it was their only source of income said, “We used to grow organic vegetables and cash crops in the open and in greenhouses. We reared goats and cows as well." They further said, “We were given Rs 5.5 lakh for the damage done to our home and asked to move. In 2014, we shifted to a spot around 2 km away. Now I work as wage labourer at construction sites.”
The main opposition party in the state Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) in its attempt to gain political mileage out of the agitation is lending its support to the agitation. On Sunday, SKM president Prem Singh Golay visited Pakyong and promised to fight for the land losers. Assuring the agitating farmers of full support, Golay said, “The stir will intensify unless compensation is paid following guidelines of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The farmers have moved Sikkim high court, praying for compensation. They have also forced the authorities to suspend some minor constructions.
Talking about agitation, District Magistrate, East Sikkim, Kapil Meena, said, “There are certain issues that need to be looked into. The high court has asked the government to furnish some details
O P Bhandari, a lawyer representing the farmers said, “The case is scheduled to be heard on November 23.”
The Pakyong airport which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 26 is located at an altitude of 4,500 ft, the airport has a strategic importance since Sikkim shares borders with China, Nepal, and Bhutan.