HC directs State to disburse compensation to airport-affected farmers within 4 weeks

Gangtok, 11 Aug:

The High Court of Sikkim has directed the State Government to disburse compensation to farmers affected by the Pakyong Airport construction within four weeks from the date of order.

The Court passed the directions on 10 Aug in light of the affidavit filed by the concerned Sub-Division Magistrate, Pakyong, Yadav Sharma on 10 June following the court's directions to carry out assessment of damages suffered by the farmers due to the airport construction.

The single bench of Chief Justice Satish Kumar Agnihotri observed that the SDM-Pakyong had examined the extent of damages caused to the crops standing on the land required for the construction of Pakyong Green Field Airport and had submitted a report along with his affidavit on 10 June.

OP Bhandari, counsel for the farmers, had sought the compensation and requested the court to direct the concerned authority to determine the scale of damage and quantum of compensation to be paid.

The dispute in respect of payment of compensation between the Government of Sikkim and the Airport Authority of India is not an issue at present and may be examined subsequently, if needed, the Court said.

According to the report submitted by the SDM-Pakyong, compensation amounting to Rs. 61.78 crore is to be distributed to farmers affected by the airport construction.

The report further said that 42 families have completely lost their landed properties while 24 families have suffered partial damage to their lands.

Sixty-six affected families had approached the High Court last year stating that they have not been properly compensated for the damages caused to their lands due to the airport construction.

The assessment was carried as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and assessment of the crops was for the last five years was done. The Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Pakyong, in his compliance report stated that during field verification, damage to each and every plot of land of individual petitioners was assessed. Annual agriculture and horticulture loss of each petitioner due to the damage of land was also ascertained and factored into the projected compensation.

The report further said that the total annual monetary loss incurred by the 66 petitioners due to damage of land amounted to Rs. 70.95 lakh.

However, there is no such prescribed rate or yardstick to calculate the damage of land and in such cases, the assessment of land which is found totally unfit for cultivation has been calculated as per the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Pakyong said in his report.