Millionaire farmers' problems in Punjab

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By Sunil Sharma

Chandigarh, May 13 : Punjab farmers are turning out to be millionaires. Not just by creating wonders in farming, but selling their farms for other dream projects.

Jhurheri, a village on the fringes of Chandigarh, dreams big as the government acquires land at record rates for an international airport.

But, the millionaire dream is causing a problem as farmers scratch their heads on how and where to invest the money.

For each acre, the government spent 375,000 US dollars for extending the dream project.

The 135 million US dollars received by the villagers is like a jackpot. Many who were finding it hard to survive on small chunks of land hope to start life afresh.

"If we go back into history when Chandigarh City was created, the government acquired 15 to 20 villages. Then, Mohali was formed and six to seven villages came under. During that time, farmers were unaware of where to invest that money and make life pleasant," said Prem Singh, village head, Jhurheri.

As the money flowed in, the undemanding lifestyle in the village turned 'funky' and 'lavish'.

Some bought top model cars, others were busy inviting relatives to celebrate. Estate agents have already started visiting the villagers to offer them new pieces of land for sale.

But, farmers being uninformed and uneducated worry market analysts who feel the villagers could be 'hoodwinked' and 'cheated'.

"We are not empowering the farmer by dispossessing him from the land. Now, he has to go rather in the remote areas. So, I don't think this is a process, which is very healthy, and the way it is handled isot very encouraging," said Dr. Pramod Kumar, an economist.

Investors have set up shops in villages and have started wooing farmers. Though, it is difficult for farmers to understand the investment mantra, the financial experts are here to help them out.

Those interested in buying a new car need not to go to an outlet, as car dealers have set up on-the-spot registration counters in the village.

Many farmers, who have purchased farmland in others parts, will be under a disadvantage. They will miss the accessibility of being close to Chandigarh.

"Everything is fine, but we are worried that we have to move from here to far off places for farming. We are near to Chandigarh and will not get such an ambience anywhere in Punjab. We are close to hospitals, multiplexes and shopping malls," said Sukhvir Singh, a villager.

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