By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI, Oct 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scores of farmers in western India have buried themselves neck-deep in the ground or are sitting in trenches to protest against what they say is meagre financial compensation from authorities keen to build housing on their land.
More than 50 farmers - men and women - from the desert state of Rajasthan began their protest two days ago, claiming local authorities had forcibly acquired their land at rates dating back to 2010 and called for increased compensation.
Television pictures from Nindar village, about 15 km (10 miles) from the fort city of Jaipur, showed about a dozen men standing in narrow pits dug up to their necks, and scores of women sitting in trenches as crowds gathered round.
"We are here to demand (a) better rate for our land. What the government is offering us is not enough. The cost of land is much higher than it was before," an elderly farmer, wearing a colourful turban and standing in a narrow pit, told the NDTV news channel on Wednesday.
Officials from the Jaipur Development Authority, which has acquired the land to build a housing project as part of the expansion of the popular tourist city, were not immediately available to comment on the protest.
The villagers have been holding demonstrations for better compensation since mid-September, but there has been no response from the government, they said.
This is not the first time farmers have staged dramatic protests to draw attention to their plight.
In March, drought-hit and debt-ridden farmers from the southern state of Tamil Nadu travelled to New Delhi in a protest where they displayed the skulls of fellow farmers believed to have committed suicide, and placed live rats in their mouths.
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.