Namdev Kumbhar saw it in a local newspaper first. An airport was to come up in his block, Purandar, an hour’s drive from Pune, in western Maharashtra.
Although the report did not list the villages that the proposed airport would cover, Kumbhar’s thoughts immediately jumped to the thousands of pomegranate, fig and mango trees that dot the region—a major source of income for the locals. In Kumbhar’s own village Vanpuri, of which he is the sarpanch, every family owns about a hundred such trees.
Subsequently, he heard rumours that the Maharashtra government was considering three or four locations in Purandar for the airport. Then, a few months later, he found out, again from a newspaper, that seven villages had been selected. Vanpuri was one of them.
Since that day four years ago, life has been a blur of protests and writing letters for the 56-year-old and the 13,000 other residents of the seven villages. A determined lot, they refuse to let go of their land