Villagers protest over proposed Gagret airport

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Una, Apr 2 (UNI) Hundreds of angry villagers from Gagret constituency in Una district of Himachal Pradesh today protested in front of the mini secretariat here and met Deputy Commissioner Padam Singh Chauhan against the government proposal of constructing an airport as part of the Special Economic Zone.

Villagers from 21 gram panchayats reached Una in tractor trawleys and trucks. They shouted slogans against the government and the district administration and staged a dharna in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner for about one and a half hour. After listening to the protests of the angry farmers, the DC had to make a public announcement, to the effect that he would not recommend the acquisition of land in Gagret segment for the construction of an airport.

It may be mentioned that an airport has been proposed in Una district under the Special Economic Zone that is to come up in the area that falls in the two adjoining districts of Kangra and Una.

In his first visit to Una after taking over, Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had announced at a public meeting regarding the green signal of the government to construct an airport in the private sector here.

Later, Gagret BJP MLA Balbir Chaudhary had also made a statement, saying that the barren land near the Swan river banks would be used for the purpose.

However, the people residing in the 25 odd villages near the land in question had been issuing statements against the construction of the airport.

They have also been alleging that the government was silent on the issue of allocation of alternate land for their resettlement and the loss of their livelihood from agriculture sources.

They categorically announced that they would be willing to face all consequences in support of their struggle against the airport.

Meanwhile, Multan Singh, president of the Matri Bhumi Sangharsh Smiiti, which is spearheading the movement, said the farmers would not allow Gagret to follow the footsteps of Nandigram in West Bengal.

He said they would not hesitate to approach the power corridors of the state and national capitals, if need be.

He said the Dhumal government had cheated the people of the state by announcing that theirs would be a pro-farmer and a pro-people government.

He alleged that the state government had turned an agent at the hands of capitalists.

Demanding a government announcement to call off the construction of an airport in Gagret segment, Multan Singh said, if this failed to happen by 3 April, the Sangharsh Samiti will begin with a 'Chakka Jam' of the Una-Dharamsala highway at Mubarikpur from 8 am to 11 am on 4 April.

Besides panchayat representatives from 21 villages, the other prominent parsons from the area who accompanied the protesters included Narender Parmar, Durlabh Singh, Surinder Kumar, Gurmukh Singh, Kamal Thakur and Usha Rani. Other organisations which had supported the protest rally today and had sent their office bearers include Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Communist Party (Marxist), Him Niti Manch and Kisan Sabha.

UNI XC AS JN MMS1929

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