The sleepy, little village of Medipally which is about 60 km from Hyderabad is now witnessing frenzied activity with scores of activists and opposition leaders mobilising villagers against the proposed pharma city by the Telangana government. Villagers who have thus far believed that the ambitious project will bring good fortune to Medipally and its vicinity are now hardly convinced.
Thanks to environmentalists now camped in the village, villagers have been informed of the potential harmful implications of a pharma city in their backyard. Resolute in their opposition, the villagers are now preparing ground to launch a full frontal attack on the state government.
But though they’re firm in their decision to fight the government, panic and hysteria has enveloped the village which has a population of 5,000 people. Village heads and farmers who are usually busy in their fields have been gathering at the panchayat office everyday to sort out a plan to resist the proposed pharma city.
The Pharma City Project
Medipally is one among the 11 villages chosen to be the destination for the state government’s prestigious pharma city project.
The mega project will be constructed on a land of 12,000 acres. According to Yacharam Tehlisdar in-charge, S Jyothi, so far the government has acquired 1992.38 acres in Medipally, 1443.29 acres in Kurmidha, 410.27 acres in Tadipathri. The government is providing a relief of Rs 12.5 lakh per acre (registered land) and Rs 8 lakh per acre (lavani patta) as per the G.O. No 21, 2017.
Farmers of the village who have already sold their land to the government claim that they were ‘deceived’ by the government.
On the way to Medipally, I spoke to Rani, a 40 year woman who sold her six acre (three-acre registered Patta land and three-acre lavani Patta land—land given by the government) fertile land to the government. She received a cheque for Rs 24 lakh for her lavani patta land, and is yet to receive another Rs 37.5 lakh that was promised to her.
Rani is perplexed by the recent developments in her village wherein several environmentalists and politicians of opposition parties have thronged their village and affirmed that the village would see a catastrophe if the pharma city is set up as envisioned by the government. With the guilt of being innocent, she says, “ We were deceived… We were told that the government is setting up a factory, which would develop this village and provide employment. But we never knew that the government is setting up a medical factory, which would wreck our lives.”
Rani alleges that the local elected TRS representatives promised that the pharma city would transform the village. She says, “No one earlier told us that our health and environment would be affected because of this. We thought it was a government factory, not a medical one.”
The discontent which was just brewing with the youngsters is now being shared by others too, reportedly after Ranga Reddy District Collector Raghunandan Reddy, who presided over the public meeting, made it clear that the village would possibly face an after-effect in another 30 years.
This admission by the Collector broke their faith in the government, which purportedly lured them with claims of providing employment and developing their village — these villagers mostly rely only on crowded share-autos to reach the nearest town Yacharam, as there aren’t adequate bus services.
Farmers of the village - both those who have sold their land and those who haven’t - allege that the Village Revenue Officers have threatened them to give away their land. Farmers claim that initially, the government asked them to give away their lavani patta land. “We couldn’t say no to it. It was a land given by the government. So we thought it was wise to give up the land and take the compensation money,” says a disheartened farmer.
Makkapalli Bujjaya, who hasn’t given up his land despite intimidation says, “There was no need for me to sell my five-acre land. Everyone surrounding my farm have sold theirs. But I didn’t. I will continue to fight, as long as it takes.”
He alleges that after the public meeting, he spoke to the RDO (Revenue Development Officer) and told him that he wishes to keep his land, to which the RDO allegedly replied, “After depositing money into your account why won’t you come down?”
Apparently, the VROs and RDO have been threatening to deposit money into the farmers’ accounts, and sue them in court claiming the farmers took money, but have gone back on their promise to give land.
“We fear the court,” says Makapalli Sathi. “If they do this, we will be running around the court until our chappals get worn out,” he adds.
Makapalli Sathi has 2 acres of land. He says that his fertile land always gave the best yield. “We produce tomatoes, Jowar, pulses, rice and cotton. The land is very fertile here.”
While many like Mucherla Jangaiah, who claims to have sold his three-acre land after being intimidated by government officials, have given up, a few villagers have vowed to resist the government’s ambitious plan.
Among them is Narasimha, a 34 year-old local CPI (M) leader, who has been resisting the pharma city since its announcement.
Narasimha says that he and some others were taken into preventive custody before the public meeting. “This is a clear violation of rule of law. No other country has blatantly exercised coercion as this present government. When I earlier tried mobilising the villagers to stop this project, I was seen as a hindrance to the village’s progress. However, after the environmentalists and activists told everyone about the environmental impact of this project, villagers are united in protesting against it,” he says.
Narasimha says that they are planning to join forces with the farmers of the other 10 hamlet villages part of the project, including Nanak Nagar, Tadipathri, Kurmidha, Muccharla, Meerakanpeta, Aaku Mailaram, Sai Reddi Gudem, Paljagudem and Ravulapalli and wage a legal battle if necessary.
Dismissing the concerns of the farmers and environmentalists, Minister of Information and Technology KT Rama Rao has been stressing that these pharma cities will not have a liquid discharge, which the environmentalists call impractical. KTR has said that this project will attract investments for nearly Rs 64,000 crore.