Aligarh, Jul 9: Winding up his four-day ‘padyatra' in the battle against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi today accused her government of acquiring farmers' lands for golf courses and racing tracks and firing upon poor farmers when they protest.
Addressing a Kisan Mahapanchayat, capping his 70-km foot march through the villages of Greater Noida and Aligarh district, he rejected criticism that he was enacting a “drama”, apparently referring to Mayawati's description of his march as “nautanki”.
Using some strong words for his rival in the campaign seen as preparations for the next year Assembly elections, Gandhi said that in Uttar Pradesh a farmer gets to know about the acquisition of his land only when the builder comes and tells him that the land belongs to him.
“In UP, we are not against development or making roads. But this land is being taken away to make golf courses, colonies and racing track from farmers and that is why they are angry.
“The farmer says if in Lucknow a rich person's land is taken he is given the market rate but when it comes to a poor farmer he is fired upon, beaten, and government does not talk to us,” Gandhi said.
An estimated crowd of about 10,000-15,000 farmers attended the Mahapanchayat, whose venue became soggy in early morning rains, capping the padyatra that began in the villages of Bhatta-Parsaul, the epicentre of a violent agitation against land acquisition in Greater Noida in May.
Dismissing criticism about his campaign, Gandhi said many people felt it was a drama. “A politician needs to go to people and talk to them and that is what I believe,” he said. Referring to land acquisition law, Gandhi said some farmers are worried about it because it is old and they have problems with it.
“We will try to bring such a law that will benefit the farmer. But only changing the law won't help because the same law exists in Haryana and UP but Haryana government takes people into confidence and talks to them.
“UP government doesn't talk to the people. When a farmer demands his rights government orders firing on him,” he said.
Gandhi said after the agitation in Bhatta-Parsaul, Mayawati came out with a new policy on land acquisition which he said will not benefit the affected people there.
“That is why I set out on this padyatra,” he added.
He said when farmers protested in Bhatta-Parsaum two months ago, police fired and some of them died. It was sad that these farmers had done nothing wrong and he came to know about this when he visited these places. They only told the government that if the government wants their land, pay adequate compensation but police in turn fired and beat them up.
Gandhi said he would never have learnt about grievances of the people of Uttar Pradesh had he stayed back in Delhi. “A UP farmer is knowledgeable and his wisdom is better than many officers. Your thinking should be involved in law-making,” he told his audience.
The Congress leader maintained that though development was talked about in Delhi, his party wanted it to reach equally everywhere.
“Not that only few people get the benefits of development and our farmers, dalits, adivasis lag behind. This is how we think. That's why we gave you NREGA. Even labourers in UP are suffering,” he said.
He alleged that though the Centre wanted to implement NREGA for the benefit of farmers and labourers, the UP government was not implementing it.
“UP Chief Minister called it worthless when we started implementing it. We are committed to a strong Land Bill, Right to Food and Education,” Gandhi said. PTI