Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress government, which has voiced its opposition to land acquisition by the state government, is going in for the biggest land acquisition drive after coming to power.
A decision of the Left Front government in December 2010, to acquire 3, 600 acres of land at Gourandi and Banjemari mouzas of Burdwan district to build a housing project for the people evicted by Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) for its mining projects has been re-approved by the Commece and Industries Department, and the proposal will be placed before the state cabinet for its re-validation.
“Minister for Commerce and Industries Partha Chatterjee has given his seal of approval, and it is going to be put before the cabinet shortly,” an official of Land and Land Reforms Department told The Indian Express. The project will be executed by Assansol Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) at a cost of Rs 2,650 crore. While the state government through ADDA will acquire the land, the money for the project will be given by the ECL.
The then Left Front government could not go ahead with the project because of opposition by some of the land owners. As the 2011 Assembly elections were drawing near, then Left Front government, stung by land problems, decided to shelve the proposal.
The Trinamool government decided to revive the project after conducting a survey. “We have arrived at a tentative figure of providing rehabilitation to 40,000 families,” said Antara Acharya, CEO of ADDA. The families were displaced by ECL’s mining activities in Burdwan district.
Government officials said the land is being taken to fulfil a “public purpose” and the policies of the present governemnt are not being compromised. “It is not being taken for setting up any private industry. The project is for the benefit of poor people,’’ an official of the department told The Indian Express.
There were about 32,000 families whose land is being taken for the housing project and 50 per cent of them are squatters, said ADDA. While for “genuine” land owners, the government will compensate according to the provisions of Land Acuisition Act of 1884, for the squatters, the government is working out a compensation package. Sources said the compensation to the squatters will be similar to the one awarded to farmers in South 24-Parganas district whose land was taken for building embankments for resisting cyclones like Aila.
The “genuine’ landowners will be paid the price in accordance with the market value — a solatium of 30 per cent of the market value and some more small benefits. “A large chunk of the land (for the housing project) is barren. Even though there is some agricultural land, all are single crop ones. There had been some opposition from some of those who were encroachers and we have overcome them. Negotiations are on to pay them some amount of compensation too,’’ Acharya said.