Imphal farmers protest against land acquisition for sports university

Imphal, March 1 (IANS) Some farmers in Thoubal district of Manipur are protesting against the state government’s move to acquire their land for the construction of a centrally-sponsored national sports university.

Mutum Churamani, who represents the aggrieved farmers, told reporters here on Monday that the state government was pretending to be in control of 336.39 acres of land in Thoubal district without telling the public that the owners never gave their consent to the acquisition.

The state government announced in August last year that it had “handed over 336.93 acres of land to the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for building a National Sports University in the state”.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh himself “handed over” the land at Yaithibi Loukol in Thoubal district to representatives of the central government, a state government statement had said in August.

Thoubal happens to be Ibobi Singh’s home district.

Churamani said the state government was misleading the public because the owners of the land did not even know that their land had been acquired.

“There are also pending lawsuits in the district court as well as Manipur high court brought by farmers against attempts to acquire their paddy fields,” he said.

He also suggested skulduggery in the matter, saying the Ibobi Singh government had entered into a dishonest deal with a cooperative society of a few farmers of the district who are misrepresenting the real owners of the land.

“I have learnt through RTI (right to information) that the Yaithibi Loukol Cooperative Farming Society had come to an understanding with the government about the acquisition of land,” he said.

The Society had changed the names of the owners without their knowledge and consent, Churamani said.

The opposition has also questioned the intention of the state government to construct the university in the chief minister’s home district at a time when Assembly elections are round the corner.

The project involves big money.

The central government has set aside Rs.100 crore as the first instalment for the project which is expected to be used almost entirely for acquisition of land.

Churamani said there were other more suitable sites for the project that the chief minister has rejected.

Out of all the options, the representatives of 29 civil society organisations had selected Senjam Chirang, a site in Imphal West district, as the most suitable site, he said.

“It is not farmland, so no compensation need be paid to the owners. It is high above the ground and could be extended on all sides,” he said.

On the other hand, the site that the state government had chosen was a lowland that would require huge expenditure on land acquisition and ground levelling, Churamani said.

“Rice production will also be destroyed if land is acquired there”.

The government has not yet clarified the matter.

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