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Notwithstanding the claims of the authorities, work on Kashmir's prestigious ring road project is going at a snail's pace due to the failure of the authorities to acquire land from the farmers.
Acquiring land for the 'dream' project is the biggest challenge before the authorities as farmers are not ready to give land at 'throwaway' prices. The Ring Road in Srinagar is aimed at reducing traffic congestion in these cities and making road travel safer, faster, more convenient, and more environmentally friendly.
The Foundation stone laid by PM in May 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of the Rs 939.41 crore Ring Road project during his visit to Jammu and Kashmir on May 19, 2018. Prior to this, it was claimed that all districts, except Budgam, have transferred their land to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The NHAI had reportedly transferred Rs 120 crore to Budgam and Rs 35 crore to Srinagar district administrations for land acquisition.
4,800 kanals of land required for this project
As per the official record, 4,800 kanals (One Acre is equal to 8.000000002 Kanal) of agricultural land is going to be acquired for a 62-km highway connecting Pulwama with Ganderbal via Budgam. Srinagar Ring Road will cross Pampore, Wathoora Chadoora, Budgam, Dharmuna, Narbal and then pass via Srinagar's western outskirts in Rambir Garh before entering Ganderbal via Srinagar Bandipora road.
Out of these 4,800 kanals, Budgam district alone will lose more than 3,700 kanals of fertile agricultural land. In addition to it, there is state land and 'Kah Charai' which has already been acquired by the government.
Ring road to be completed in two phases
The ring road for Srinagar will start at Galander and meet the highway at Narbal Junction in its Phase-I. The road would be four-lane with a six-lane future projection. Under the Phase-II of the project, a two-way road will start at Narbal and meet in Ganderbal. The road length in Phase-I will be 34.72 kilometers and in Phase-II 27.2 kilometers.
What are farmers' concerns?
Aggrieved farmers have reasons to question compensation being offered to them in lieu of acquiring their land for this project. "Notification of for acquisition of land was issued in the year 2017 as per the J&K Land Acquisition Act of 1934. As per law, two-year is the maximum period to acquire the land but the period lapsed", renowned RTI activist Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, who is fighting for farmers' rights, told The International Business Times India.
"After three and a half years, the government has started the exercise of acquiring land as per the J&K Land Acquisition Act-1934 which was automatically repealed with the abrogation of Article 370," he pointed out.
"Now the farmers in J&K whose land is being acquired are entitled to compensation under new law applicable in J&K from 31 October 2019, but they are being denied this benefit," he said and argued that farmers are now entitled to get compensation as per Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.
Affected people, especially the farmers in Budgam and some other districts under the banner of Ring Road Land Owners Welfare Committee have been demanding fair compensation from 2017 onwards.