Ranchi, June 21: At a time when the aviation industry is going through a rough patch, the capital’s airport is being drawn into a controversy over land ownership: around 150 villagers now claim their families weren’t adequately compensated for the land on which the Birsa Munda Airport was built way back in 1963.
Their claims are based on a set of documents they received from the state revenue department after applying for certain details under the Right to Information Act.
The documents — over 1,035 pages — provide acquisition details of 982.44 acres of the 1,568 acres on which the airport is situated. The bone of contention is over the remaining land for which the revenue department could not produce acquisition details, since it pertained to “pre-Independence days”.
The villagers, represented by the Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti, are now thinking of moving the High Court against the state government for not parting with all the information.
“The state government has failed to provide satisfactory and complete information about land acquisition for setting up the airport,” said Krishna Sahu, the samiti’s general secretary.
“It has also failed to give us details of compensation paid to land owners on whose land the airport came up,” said the leader of the samiti formed in 2006 to champion the “cause of the aggrieved families.”
The samiti invoked RTI in April 2007 seeking various details about the land — namely, when and from whom it was acquired by the government, how much compensation was paid and to whom. But the information, that too incomplete, reached it only recently.
According to the documents, the then Bihar government had “acquired” 982.44 acres for the airport in the four villages of Hundru, Hethu, Hinoo and Kalyanpur during 1962-63.
Ranchi district land acquisition officer Kamal Shankar Srivastava, who provided the information to the villagers, agreed the information was incomplete.
“We have been able to provide detailed papers for a part of the land acquired. Rest of the documents aren’t available as it relates to the British period,” he said.
The British, he said, was understood to have “requisitioned” the remaining 585.56 acres between 1941-43 and paid farmers “yearly compensation” for the crops, houses, wells and trees that stood on their land.
Apparently, during WW II, the British were keen on setting up a military camp/command in the area. And as per its understanding with the villagers, the land would be returned to them after the war.
However, after Independence, the Indian Army continued to occupy the land.
None of this is included in the set of documents handed over to the samiti, which was set up by villagers belonging to Hundru, Hinoo, Hethu, Garhatoli, Chotaghaghra, Pakatoli, and Kalyanpur villages.
“My land happens to be right in the middle of the airport and I continue to pay revenue. There are many in the village like me. We should be compensated adequately,” said Vijay Wargiya, son of Om Prakash Vijay Wargia, the original owner.
State land revenue minister Dulal Bhuiyan, who is aware of the brewing controversy, said he would consult Union ministers.
“I have gone through the papers related to the airport land. The land whose acquisition papers aren’t available, may have been requisitioned by the British,” he said, adding he would constitute a representative committee and consult defence minister A.K. Antony and civil aviation minister Praful Patel to find a way to compensate villagers.