Agriculture university on farmland miffs peasants

Feb 10 : Dhubri’s much-wanted agriculture university is being planned on a plot that gives food and livelihood to 200 farmers, prompting the impoverished peasants to launch a movement to reclaim their land. 
The Champabati farm, where the agriculture university will come up, is a plot that erstwhile chief minister Sarat Chandra Sinha handed over to 50 landless farmers in 1974.
On Saturday, chief minister Tarun Gogoi laid the foundation stone of the state’s third agriculture university on the land, which now feeds 200 farmers and their families. 
Unhappy that the government decided to allot the entire 982 bighas, along Champabati river under Bilasipara subdivision, to the university without sparing a single acre and thought for them, the farmers have formed the Champabati Krishi Pam Nigam Surakha Committee to raise their voice against the injustice. 
The general secretary of the committee, Ranjit Roy, said they, too, want the university but are worried about their future after the land on which they have been farming for the past 34 years, turns into a campus.
“We have already submitted memorandum to deputy commissioner Jatindra Lahakar and sought his intervention but till today have not got any assurance from the government,” Roy said.
There had been a longstanding demand for an agriculture university from the people of lower Assam districts.
Once functional, the university in Dhubri will have 49 teaching staff and eight non-teaching employees. 
The entire project will cost Rs 51 crore, of which Rs 10 crore will be provided by the state government and the rest will come from the Centre’s coffers.
A few educated farmers, however, favoured the establishment of the university in the subdivision, keeping in mind the larger benefits that the institution was likely to provide.
Parimal Barman, a farmer, said 79 per cent of the people in Dhubri depend on agriculture for livelihood but have little idea about the modern technological advancements that could help increase their production.
This is where the agriculture university will help, with tips on the latest in farming tools and methods.
“And if the agriculture university is set up here, it will cater not only Dhubri district but also to Bongaigaon and Kokrajhar,” Barman said.
A host of ministers attended the foundation stone laying ceremony on Saturday but no one had any inkling about the farmers’ problems.