LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - At least two people were killed and several wounded in northern India on Saturday in clashes between police and farmers angry at what they say is low compensation for land taken to build a highway, officials said.
Police opened fire after the protesters attacked them with stones and set vehicles on fire in Uttar Pradesh state’s Aligarh where the government is building a $2 billion (1 billion pounds) six-lane highway to connect the Taj Mahal city of Agra with capital New Delhi.
K.R. Mohan Rao, a local government official at Aligarh, said the dead included a policeman who had been shot from the crowd. Indian media reports said at least four people had died in the police firing. Rao said he could not confirm that figure.
The state government has already acquired 1500 hectares of land spread over 355 villages. Locals say the compensation they received for their land was half the market price of about $20 (12.81 pounds) per sq metre.
Saturday’s incident is the latest in a string of violence surrounding government efforts to acquire farmland for industry in India, where two-thirds of the 1.2 billion population is dependent on agriculture.
Such protests have delayed plans by South Korea’s POSCO to build a $12 billion (7 billion pounds) integrated steel mill in eastern India and India-focussed miner Vedanta Resources Plc’s plans to push ahead with a long-stalled bauxite mine.
The standoff over land for industry has also been seized on by India’s Maoist rebels who are building on farmers’ anger and a wider resentment that foreign firms are being allowed to displace poor people and cart away natural resources.
Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee