The wave of protests against land acquisition has reached Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s hometown Karad in Satara district. Some 1,000 farmers on Wednesday afternoon marched in protest against the proposed land acquisition for the expansion of Karad airport.
The district administration, on June 25, initiated land measurement for expansion of Karad airport, near Varunji village, 1.5 km from Karad.
The farmers affected directly or indirectly by this project have launched protests under the aegis of the Shramik Mukti Dal, led by well-known activist, Dr Bharat Patankar.
On Wednesday, the farmers took out a protest march from the airport to the sub divisional office (SDO) and in a memorandum to the SDO, Swati Deshmukh, the farmers demanded a meeting with Chavan to discuss their grievances and stop the acquisition.
The airport is spread on 65 acres and the acquisition of more than 100 acres has been proposed. Some 450 farmers from Varunji and Kese villages will be affected.
“Karad is a small town with more than 70,000 people. No one from Karad has ever demanded expansion of the airport. There are no industries in Karad, so commercial air services were never introduced on this airport since inception,” farmer leader Ashok Thorat said.
“The airport is just for air services of the ministers and public representatives once in a while. Some weeks ago, Chavan announced the development of the airport and the process was started,” he added.
Besides Varunji and Kese, the land acquisition will affect the farmlands in Padali, Munde, Supne and Vijaynagar villages. The lift irrigation scheme, which irrigates 3,200 acres of farmland in these villages, has pipelines and other infrastructure on the land to be acquired for the expansion.
“So there is a genuine fear that after expansion, the irrigation scheme will become defunct, severely affecting water supply to 3,200 acres,” he said.
Patankar said that the expansion of the Karad Airport violates the national resettlement and rehabilitation policy, 2007, which prohibits acquisition of irrigated farmland.
The airport was constructed in the 1960s to facilitate the Koyna dam project when the late Maharashtra stalwart, Yashwantrao Chavan, was CM. “Kolhapur airport is just 60 km away, but is struggling to get passengers. We do not think the expansion of Karad airport is a feasible idea,” Thorat said.