As many as 15 farmers of Polepally village in the backward Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh have filed their nomination for the Mahabubnagar Lok Sabha constituency as independent candidates for the coming general elections.
Their purpose is to draw people's attention to their plight and also of all others whose land have been acquired for setting up a Special Economic Zone. Of course, this is not for the first time that the unlettered and apolitical farmers are contesting the elections. They had done so in the by-elections held in May 2008. Thirteen of them contested for the Jadcherala assembly segment, which comprises Polepally. They together garnered over 13,500 votes and all of them forfeited their security deposits.
They were, however, happy at the outcome as they could draw the attention of the people of the state to their prolonged struggle against the SEZ. This time, they want to draw the attention of the country.
The farmers' problems started in 2003, when the then Telugu Desam Party government identified 969 acres in Polepally and Mudureddypally villages for setting up the SEZ. In 2005, the Congress government enforced the proposal leading to displacement of around 350 small and marginal farmers. Nearly half the land acquired was assigned land belonging to dalits and tribals.
According to farmers, their compensation ranged from Rs 18,000 to Rs 50,000 per acre depending on whether it was an assigned or patta land, while the market price stood at around Rs 20 lakh an acre.
The farmers were against the SEZ from the beginning. In 2003, they blocked the Hyderabad-Bangalore national highway in protest against land acquisition. The next year, they staged a demonstration before the state Legislative Assembly. A Polepally SEZ Vyathireka Aikya Sanghatana (Alliance against Polepally SEZ) was formed and the struggle continued.
Meanwhile, 200 acres in the SEZ have been earmarked for pharmaceutical companies, where Hyderabad-based Aurobindo Pharma Ltd and Hetero Drugs Ltd are setting up their facilities.