THE seeds of trouble were sown three years ago when the then chief minister Mayawati declared the formation of Udham Singh Nagar district in the Kumaon region of Uttar Pradesh. Now it has grown into a full-blown harvest of discontent, with rich Terai farmers and big businessmen up in arms against the inclusion of Udham Singh Nagar in the proposed hill state of Uttaranchal. Their primary fear is that they will lose their land once the new state comes into existence and land ceiling laws are implemented.
The statement issued by the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) that the land mafia will be dealt with severely after the formation of Uttaranchal has only added to the farmers' fears. Farmers and rice mill owners—there are around 400 rice mills in the district—are worried that the land ceiling limit in the new state will be brought down to 3.5 acres per person, against the existing limit of 12.5 acre. But the fact of the matter is that there are farms as big as 2,000 to 3,000 acres in Udham Singh Nagar.
According to a rough estimate, 600 families control 35 lakh acres of agriculture land in the Terai belt. The land owners include big politicians, industrialists and film stars. Forty farmers own the bigger holdings. Prominent among them are Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, Banta Singh Bentkhedi, Rana Bhupinder Singh, Devraj Goyal and Harbans Singh Dhillon. Other 1,000-plus acre farms include the Khurpiya farm, Prag farm, Jat farm and Calcutta farm.
In the past 50 years no government has implemented the land ceiling in this region effectively and the rich have been having a virtually free run. Interestingly, these farmers have invented novel methods to hold on to their illegally occupied land. Common methods used: divorcing one's wife on paper so that the woman becomes a claimant to the property;...