Not only has the project not taken off yet, due process was not followed during land acquisition and no proper compensation has been given to the farmers.

Telangana farmers learn about rights to reclaim land given up for Pharma City 3 yrs ago
news Pharma City Project Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 17:14

It’s a fact that land acquisition for big government projects are challenged at many places across India and that those whose lands are being taken are often not aware of their land rights nor entitlements. In Telangana, a group of farmers are making attempts to understand their rights and, more importantly, exercise those rights.

For almost two years V Narasimha thought that the Pharma City project would convert his home village of Muccherla in Kandukur mandal into something akin to the Hitec City area of Hyderabad. While revenue department officials have been using pressure tactics to force him out of his land, he was half-minded about giving up the land. The officials tell him that all surrounding villages have surrendered their lands to the state government for the project. But the villagers say the officials lied.

Narasimha was en route to his farm shortly before noon one day when eight farmers from Yacharam mandal arrived in Muccherla in a car. They stopped Narasimha and explained to him what the Pharma City project was and, more importantly, they told him what his rights were under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and how to demand for his rights. Narasimha decided not to give up his 8 acre land for the project.

The project

Pharma City is a pet project of the Telangana government that will encompass an area of 19,333.20 acres or 78.24 sq km. Of this, 13,030 acres or 52.73 sq km of land, about 16 km to the south of the Hyderabad Outer Ring Road in Kandukur and Yacharam mandals of Ranga Reddy district, is to be developed as a Hyderabad Pharma NIMZ-4 (National Investment and Manufacturing Zone) devoted exclusively to drug manufacturing.

The rest of the Pharma City land would be used to set up a Pharma University, Pharma R&D, an Ancillary Hub and a Pharma City Township with all allied social and physical infrastructure, according to the project pre-feasibility report.

Hyderabad, known as the ‘Bulk Drug Capital of India’, accounts for almost 20% of pharma exports from India. Telangana contributes to one-third of the total pharma production in the country with around 400 plus pharma companies, including 170 plus bulk drug units, in the state.

“I thought there was going to be a university or a college here with a township and that the locality would look like Hitec City. The government officials did not say anything about drug factories being set up here,” says Narasimha. “We were told there would be a railway station here as well,” he adds.

Many of the farmers TNM spoke to had very vague knowledge about the project while the few who knew about the project were dead against it due to the impending pollution that the project would bring. All of them know that the government would take their lands eventually. The government claims 7,414 acres have already been acquired, but this acquisition has been challenged in the Hyderabad High court and a stay order has been obtained. 

Awareness campaigns

TNM tagged along with K Saraswathi, a documentary filmmaker turned farmer now residing at Medipally, along with seven other farmers on their campaign to create awareness about the Pharma City project. They aimed to cover 12 villages and 10 hamlets where the supposed project will be set up in the course of the next few weeks.

The group hopped from one village to another, talking to every farmer they found on the road and shared with them pamphlets explaining their rights and how the state government had not followed due process while acquiring land for the project.

“It was difficult to bring one village together, we wanted to start the campaign last year itself but it got delayed,” says Saraswathi, who has been helping the farmers get access to legal advice. “It’s better if this is a farmers’ campaign rather than some third party people. Other villages will be more receptive to fellow farmers,” she adds.

As the campaigners stop to talk to a farmer, they enter into a discussion and onlookers join in on the conversation and the crowd swells in number.

At Muccherla, the villagers say government officials have not sent them any notice about the land acquisition for the project. No public meetings have been held either, but the local Mandal Revenue Officer told them that all neighbouring villages have surrendered their lands and they should follow suit.

“The officials say that since our lands are assigned lands given by the government, the government has the right to take it back,” says one farmer from the crowd.

Another farmer from the village says, “A revenue department official said they would credit the money into my bank account and then say I took the money for the land.”

Social media as a tool

“Using misinformation and adding pressure is an age-old technique used by officials. Social media is helping us reach out to the farmers,” Saraswathi says.

To fight against the misinformation and pressure tactics used by the government officials, K Ganesh, a mango farmer, has been making the best use of his phone using Facebook and WhatsApp to connect and educate his fellow farmers from neighbouring villages.

“We started creating WhatsApp groups and sharing information about the latest news related to the project. We impart information about land rights, what kind of pollution is caused by pharma companies, etc.,” says Ganesh.

The villagers themselves create materials for spreading awareness about the project, using newspaper clippings and editing software on Ganesh’s phone. The content for the pamphlets is written mostly by Saraswathi. As information gets posted in the groups, farmers from surrounding villagers voice out their views in the group and soon a discussion ensues and more farmers join in the conversation.


Also Read: Telangana’s Pharma City: Botched up land acquisition in an uncertain project




Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.