Hundreds of farmers on Thursday staged a demonstration against the proposed establishment of a housing colony by the Gujranwala Development Authority.
The protesters, entered the city on about a dozen tractor-trolleys, and gathered in front of the commissioner’s office.
The protesters were either small landowners or landless farmers, who said they were employed as wage-labourers on farms, in Wanya, Aroop, Khizer Chak and Sangowali villages.
Addressing the rally, Muhammad Abbas, an Aroop resident, vowed that they would not let the GDA convert farmland into real estate. “The livelihood of thousands of people is associated with farms in these villages,” he said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Shaukat Ali, another Aroop resident, said only the farmers with large landholdings were willing to cooperate with the GDA. He said a majority of farmers in these villages did not own any land and were either working as wage-labourers or were farming on rented lands. “These farmers and their families will lose their only source of income if the GDA goes ahead with its plan and establishes the housing colony,” he said. He demanded that these farmers should also be compensated for the loss they would suffer due to the establishment of the scheme.
Housing colony in public interest, GDA governing body
However, in a meeting following the protest the GDA governing body rejected the demands of the protesters and said that the housing colony would be established in accordance with the rules and regulations. The meeting was attended by GDA director (administration) Farooq Ahmed Khan, director (engineering) Mujahid Pervaiz Khokhar, director (estate management) Chaudhry Muhammad Anwar and director (town planning) Syed Aqeel Asghar Jafri.
Talking to The Express Tribune after a meeting on Thursday, a GDA governing body member said most of the protesters were not residents of the villages whose lands would be procured for the housing colony. He said they were paid to attend the protest by a small section of villagers who were opposed to surrendering their lands to the GDA. He said the interest of hundreds of thousands of residents of Gujranwala was more important than that of a section of villagers. He said owners of up to 750 acres of land had assured the GDA of their cooperation. Another 150 acres of the 1,185 acres selected for the GDA City was state land, he added.
“Planning is already underway for the establishment of more housing colonies,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.
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