x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Farmers threaten India's debut Formula One race

Farmers say they have not been adequately compensated for the land that was given to race organisers to build the $350m circuit in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi.

NEW DELHI // Indian farmers yesterday threatened to disrupt the country's first Formula One race later this month, angry over the way in which their land was acquired for the new track.

The farmers say that they have not been adequately compensated for the land that was given to race organisers to build the US$350 million (Dh1.28 billion) circuit in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi.

Excitement has been building in India in the run-up to the big race on October 30.

Virender Dhada, a farmer, said: "We are not against the race, but we feel we have been short-changed in the deal. We will stage protest marches and sit-ins next to the track starting on October 23 to ensure our voice is heard."

Farmers are demanding more compensation and employment opportunities because, they claim, their livelihood has been snatched away along with their land to build the Buddh International Circuit.

"We are only demanding what is our right. The authorities have been turning a deaf ear to our legitimate demands. If they are willing to talk to us even now, we will stop the planned agitation," Mr Dhada said.

JP Sports, organisers of the race, dismissed the threat as blackmail tactics aimed at gaining publicity. "This whole thing is a big joke," said an executive from the company, who did not want to be named.

"People should not be taking these threats seriously. There is so much riding on the race for the company and the country, do you think we will allow a handful of farmers to spoil it?

"We have spent $400 million on the race and we will spend a few millions more if needed to have adequate security in place. We will do whatever it takes to have a wonderful event."

Property disputes are common in India, where endemic corruption and outdated laws governing land purchases often lead to complicated legal cases that can take years to resolve.