LAND ISSUES LEAVE TRINAMOOL IN A FIX
Didi Ka Band Baja ( Sisters Band)
Da Ki Roshanai ( Brothers Lighting)
Diggiraja ki Dance Party ( Diggi's Dance Party)
Yuraj Ka hai Rajyabhishek
Amma, Bahanji Tum bhi Aana
Nyota Tumhe Hamane Diya
Tumhare Bagair Rajyabhishe Hai Adhoora
Agali Bar Mil Ke Ladenge
These are my lines for Indian Political Scene. This is difficult for other to understand written with local dialects and meaning.
Land struggle — a Pandora ’sbox the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) opened while in the Opposition — has landed the party in a fix, with TMC now on the ruling side.
After the state assembly passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill, 2011, last week, there are demands from unwilling farmers for returning their land, acquired in projects such as Burdwan health city, Siliguri satellite township and the NTPC power plant at Katwa. Kick-started by the TMC, the land agitations at these sites are taking a new turn now.
Soon after the Bill was passed in the assembly, agitators stalled work at Burdwan health city site, causing trouble for the authority. The health city is being developed in a publicprivate partnership by the Burdwan Development Authority and the Bengal Faith Health Care (BFHC), a special purpose vehicle promoted by CES Infratech and Faith Health Care, aCES group company.
“On May 14, about 300-400 people rushed to our project site and stopped work completely. Some 70-80 farmers were unwilling to give their land and, reportedly, they even rejected the cheques, but no major agitation had happened till the government ’sdecision. Now, we have been thrown out of the site. Even the outpatient unit, operational with four specialist doctors, is not being allowed to work,” said a BFHC official. The company was planning to start full operations from October this year. However, the plans seem to have been derailed by “Banerjee ’sSingur Bill”.
According to reports, about 84 farmers had turned down cheques issued in exchange for 23 acres of the land acquired in 2005 for the project in Goda. For the `1,200-crore project, 57 acres of land was acquired from more than 350 owners and BFHC has already invested `50 crore. The TMC, which went on adamage-control mode, sent Rabiranjan Chatterjee, technical education minister, to the site to speak to the unwilling farmers.
“He came up with some suggestions, including returning the land and demanding more compensation. In the wake of all this, only time can prove what will happen to the project,” the official said.
All is also not well at the proposed satellite township in the Kawakhali-Porajhar area in Siliguri, where acquisition of 320 acres of land started in 2004. The protests were spearheaded by Congress leader and member of parliament from Raniganj, along with the TMC and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
“We have given compensation and allotted 800-odd plots to those losing their land. There were some people who were unwilling to part with their land and are protesting to have it back. The matter is with the court now,” said D K Roy, assistant town planner of Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority, which is planning the project.
Meanwhile, TMC itself was planning a Singur re-run at the Katwa power plant site, where top leaders like Saugata Ray, Purnendu Bose and Sovan Chatterjee paid a visit. The unwillingness to acquire land from those unwilling to sell seems to be a hindrance for this `9,600crore project for a 1,600-mega watt NTPC plant. The public sector undertaking had taken over the Katwa project from the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd, which had acquired 387 of the 1,035 acres required for the project last year.
According to sources, Banerjee, who heads the power ministry herself, will not allow acquiring more than 600 acres of land. “There needs to be some openeness from the government for the project to continue,” complained a top NTPC official.
On the other hand, Saugata Ray, a member of parliament who once headed the campaign through the Save Farmland Committee, said, “A lot will depend on the ground situation. People in Katwa never wanted further acquisition of land.” In Katwa, 1,033 acres of land belong to 4,600 farmers and not many were willing to give their land even for the first phase of the project. Matters have worsened after the Singur Bill.
However, for the TMC, it seems a ghost from the past has started to haunt them now.
After the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill, 2011 was passed, there have been demands from unwilling farmers for the return of their land acquired for projects across the state