In June 2015 it was reported that an international airport would be constructed in the vicinity of Shivdaspura village, 20 kilometres south of Jaipur, the capital city of the state of Rajasthan. An aerotropolis-type development was planned, called Shivdaspura Aero City, with hotels, shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and a cargo hub. At the end of September 2015 it became evident that mass eviction loomed for the project; an article published by the Times Of India warned that ‘sword of eviction hangs on 20 villages’ in the Shivdaspura area. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had requested that the state government provide land measuring 6 kilometres by 2.5 kilometres for the airport. Then the state government instructed the Jaipur Development Agency (JDA) to acquire 2,100.8 hectares of land for a greenfield airport (an airport built on undeveloped land). The JDA had already prepared a proposal for land acquisition and had identified land for the airport in 2005-2006, after which land conversion for private housing schemes was banned within this area. Following this, in 2008, a proposal was sent to the AAI. The AAI inspected the area but turned down the airport proposal as it was only 25 kilometres away from the existing Jaipur Airport at Sanganer. The norm is that a new airport cannot be established within a 150 kilometre radius of an existing airport. Upon rejection of the project many public representatives wrote letters urging the JDA to lift the ban on land conversion, to no avail. The airport proposal was discussed again in 2010 and the Urban Development and Housing department (UDH) directed the JDA to examine the project. A 2,100 hectare site and a ‘special area’
The JDA finalized the proposal to acquire land for the airport in February 2016, stating that farmers would be compensated according to the provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and that the land acquisition process would commence with preparation of a Social Impact Study (SIA) which was expected to be completed in six months. Within the 2,100.8 hectare area a joint inspection was carried out by AAI and JDA officials of a ‘special area’ requiring land acquisition from eight villages. The full list of 20 affected villages specified the proposed land areas earmarked for acquisition (in hectares): Chandlai 79.26; Shivdaspura 172.25; Bareda 558.25; Gopirampura 229.06; Laxmipura 2.76; Biharipura 23.56; Jajhaarpura 37.30; Yaralipura 101.28; Bada Padampura 133.14; Raypuriya 223.75; Paachunda 0.33; Bhawanipura 14.97; Jailalpura 88.13; Balupura 138.55; Devki Nandanpura 0.47; Jajaalpura 3.44; Nagaalpura 159.37; Dharampura 58.95; Hanumanpura 73.11 ; Chak Shivdaspura 2.37
Protests against land acquisition
In July 2017 the Times of India reported that the fate of many farmers in the 20 villages facing land acquisition for the airport hung in the balance; they faced inconvenience as the state government decided whether to proceed with the project. The ban on land conversion and issuing title deeds meant a stall on development in affected areas. In November 2017, following directions from the state government, the JDA drafted a fresh proposal estimating the compensation to be provided to landowners for land acquisition. A JDA official stated that the 6 kilometre by 2.5 kilometre area would include a “400 hectare area earmarked for developing hotel, lounge etc.” In December 2017 JDA’s proposal to acquire land for the airport from 20 villages was reported at 2,094 hectares for total project site area. Within this area the JDA planned to earmark 1,172 hectares of land for development of the runway for the proposed airport and this land would be acquired from eight villages. In response to direction from the UDH the JDA had sent coordinates identifying the site. Following a recent visit by Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinya, the state government expedited the land acquisition exercise for the airport.
There was a major protest against land acquisition for Shivdaspura Airport by farmers and residents of the 20 affected villages in January 2018. The following month many farmers with land earmarked for acquisition to make way for the airport threatened to stage a protest in the state assembly. Narendra Sharma, an affected farmer, raised the issue of the ban on land conversion stalling development in the area for several years saying: “If government want to construct the airport, it should expedite the process to provide compensation or the ban should be lifted as it’s affecting the growth of the area.” Information about the Shivdaspura Airport project compiled by Land Conflict Watch informs us that Ashok Mehta, president of the organization opposing the airport, Shivdaspura Greenfield airport hatao samgarah samiti, said acquisition of 2,100 hectares of land in 20 villages for the project would affect 80,000 people and that the area contains 2,000 houses, 30 schools and 200 commercial institutions. The investment in the airport is Rs 1,400 Crore (USD195,769,000). A series of protests by farmers opposing land acquisition for the airport began in March 2018. Affected farmers had started to organize meetings in the villages. One farmer, Abhishek Kumar, said: “For the airport the JDA would acquire land in 21 villages. We have decided to organize meeting every day in each village. The farmers would present the memorandum to chief minister and demand not to develop airport on private land.”
Affected families unable to sell or develop their land
In June 2018 the UDH turned down a proposal by several developers who submitted a memorandum requesting that buildings, houses and plots on land reserved for Shivdaspura Airport be regularized. The request was turned down even though the state government had yet to decide whether to proceed with the airport project. The decision meant that development in the airport-affected area would continue to be stalled. An official stated that the decision against regularizing the land was based upon Section 54(B) of the Jaipur Development Authority Act 1982, which contains a provision that land reserved for a project cannot be regularized, even if the land is not acquired. The state government would require Rs 6,000 Crore (USD839 million) to acquire land for the airport. In January 2019 a change of government raised airport-affected landowners’ hopes for regularization of their land. Affected families appealed to the new Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, to intervene, pointing out that they could neither sell nor develop their land and remained uncompensated by the JDA. Property within the land reserved for the airport had turned into non-performing assets. Affected families’ appeals against the airport had gone unheard under the previous government. In April 2019 the Times of India reported that the state government and JDA may decide to shelve the airport project due to shortage of funds for land acquisition. A land plot owner, Ashok Singh said that stalling of development on the land over several years meant “land holders are left in lurch”. Another plot owner said the land reserved in Shivdaspura was unsuitable for an airport due to clay soil. In August 2019 farmers affected by the proposed greenfield airport once again demanded that the state government regularize their land. Under the banner of Greenfield airport Hatao Kisan Sangarch Samiti they gathered in Shivdaspura to protest and submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot demanding lifting of the ban on development on the land. A farmer said that reservation of land for the airport in eight villages in 2005-2006 “was completely illegal as there is no provision in the law to reserve land.” Another member of the farmers’ delegation, Prahlad Meena, said that earmarking of land in eight villages as a ‘special area’ in the 2025 master plan had caused huge inconvenience to farmers: “For the past many years, the district lease committee (DLC) rates of the area have not increased, as the land is reserved for the airport. Moreover development is stalled as land holders are left in the lurch. In Lok Sabha, civil aviation minister had replied that no airport was proposed in Shivdaspura. Still, the land was kept reserved.”