The farmers of Saini Village have been waiting for the Abadi lands that were taken away from them. As generations perish fighting more than a decade-long battle, the youth languish in bureaucratic apathy.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in his recent visit to Dadri, Uttar Pradesh has promised relief to the farmers in the Abadi land dispute with Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority. It has been 15 years since GNIDA had wrongly acquired Abadi lands of Saini Village in 2005 but no action has been taken to date.

The promise of leasebacks of Abadi Lands by the Chief Minister has not sparked hope for the villagers. “Come every Vidhan Sabha election, every leader has promised our lands back but nothing really happens here,” said Ajay Nagar, a resident of Saini Village. The residents seem unsatisfied with the compensation amount given to them. “We were given a sum of 3 Lakh rupees. The money is too meager for the land they took from us,” explained Nagar.

The story remains the same for most of the villagers. There isn’t any respite in sight as everything in their lives comes down to the same dreadful circle - roti, kapda, makaan.

Rekha, a 27-year-old resident of Saini Village has seen her father fight for his plot in the Abadi lands. During this decade-long battle, she has also seen her father struggle with bureaucracy, his depleting health, and his eventual demise. “I must have been in class 9th when the first protests happened in Saini,” reminisced Rekha. Rekha has seen her life change since then. With the lands gone, the primary source of income for their family came down to the two buffaloes they have. “We are living off of the compensatory amount that was given to us during the acquisition, I don’t know what we’ll do once that money is gone.”

According to Rekha, the compensatory money has brought more evil to the village than respite. “It has become a trend, people come to marry off their sons in the villages that were compensated in hopes of dowry. It is all about the money,” she said. The only substantial thing that Rekha’s family could build was their Pakka House. They’ve sold off whatever land they had left after the acquisition.

“The land, according to GNIDA, was to be used for industrial purposes. Why are there people living on it?” questioned Rekha. The acquisition land now has several multi-storeyed residential buildings and has people already inhabiting the flats. Despite the hardships, the people of Saini Village have fought for their rights. “I’ve lived this life for a while now. If I don’t fight for my land, who else will?” Rekha declared.

Almost a kilometer away from Rekha’s house lives another resident of Saini village, Jitendra Singh. Singh is a lawyer and social activist who has been working for the people of Saini Village providing them legal aid for free.

Explaining the legal aspects of the issue, Singh said, “The change in land use by GNIDA stands illegal. Land use can only be changed if there is a dire and urgent need to prevent a calamity.”

Singh has been monitoring the case very closely and elaborates that GNIDA did not follow the proper rules during the acquisition. “No surveys were taken. The Award too wasn’t given within the two-year time span which essentially means that the proceedings for land acquisition should lapse,” said Singh, pointing at the lands that were taken during the acquisition.

“GNIDA is encroaching within the properties of the villagers. You were supposed to take the farmlands. If you take away the farmer’s living quarters as well, where would they live? You are pushing the farmers to the margins, forcing them to live in illegal settlements,” claimed Singh.

Singh has been proactive in other matters of the village as well. He has fought and won another legal battle with GNIDA over the illegal acquisition of the Village Pond. He explains that the acquisition goes against the Environment Act of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court in its judgment has directed the authorities to restore, maintain and protect the water body in Saini Village. “It has been two years since the judgment in 2019, but nothing has happened. The construction over the pond is still going on,” Singh said.

The effect of dehumanizing apathy is evident in the residents of Saini Village. “We’ve given up altogether, nobody listens to us and nothing really changes, we’re mere pawns in the game.” concluded Singh.