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Now a 'Singur' in Madhya Pradesh?

Bhopal, Feb 10 (IANS) A place in Madhya Pradesh may see a repeat of Singur, the area in West Bengal that is on the boil over land acquisition for a Tata Motors car project.

The state government is acquiring nearly 4,000 acres of land near the Dhar district's Pithampur industrial area for a world-class auto-testing track.

But the farmers in 10 villages who have been made to part with their land for the project are unhappy with the compensation package, giving the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) a chance to protest the government's decision to acquire farmland.

The track, approved by the central government, would be an international standard centre to provide testing facilities to Indian and foreign companies for all kinds of automobile machinery - one of the most significant initiatives in the automotive sector.

To be set up by the National Automotive Testing and Research and Development Infrastructure Project at a cost of Rs.10 billion, the track would be equipped with the facility of testing vehicles in various climatic conditions at different stages after which 'standardisation' certificates would be issued for vehicles produced in India and abroad.

'What makes the project more significant for Madhya Pradesh is because developed states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were competing for this scheme,' Industries Minister Babulal Gaur said.

But opposition leader Jamuna Devi, who is also an MLA from Dhar, has threatened that if local farmers are subjected to injustice, a Singur-type protest will be launched. The BKS too is up in arms against the land acquisition.

Alleging that fertile land is being wrested from the peasants in tribal-dominated areas like Khandwa, Kalyansikhedi, Madhopur and Sagaur, Jamuna Devi has warned that farmers would take on the government if it continues with land acquisition.

She has also written a letter to BJP president Rajnath Singh, asking him to exhibit his might against farmland acquisition in Dhar.

'Thousands of acres of fertile land, belonging to farmers, is being acquired by the BJP government for being provided to the industry even as thousands of peasants are consequently facing starvation,' Jamuna Devi told Rajanth Singh urging him to direct the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government to halt the acquisition of land.

'We expect the same kind of opposition to the Pithampur project from the BJP as it displayed against the Tata Motors project in Singur in West Bengal,' she wrote.

Rajnath Singh had supported Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee's protests against similar land acquisition at Singur for a Tata Motors small car project.

State BJP spokesman Umashankar Gupta, however, dismisses comparisons between Singur and Pithampur.

'The Dhar project belongs to the Congress-led central government where Devi's own party is in power. She should first ask her party leaders to scrap the project if her concern is genuine,' Gupta said.

But BKS has warned of an intensified campaign if the government does not mend its ways. 'The stir may turn violent if the track site is not shifted to a barren plot or adequate compensation is not offered to the farmers,' said Pop Singh Nagar, BKS state executive member.

BJP leaders in Dhar too seem to be opposed to the farmland acquisition.

'The compensation package is not satisfactory as it does not take care of the permanent loss to the next generation of farmers whose land is being acquired,' said senior BJP leader and former union minister Vikram Verma, who is also from Dhar.

He has written to Chief Minister Chouhan and Industry Minister Gaur but to no avail.

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posted by Resistance 2/10/2007 01:12:00 PM,

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