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Coercion cry at New Town
- Villagers chase away Rajarhat officials for landgrab tactics

Villagers prevented officials of Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) for the second day on Wednesday from carrying out inspections for acquisition of land for the ongoing Rajarhat New Town project.

On Tuesday, too, HIDCO executive engineer Anjan Das led his team of inspectors to the Patharghata and Baligudi areas of Rajarhat. They were chased away by a group of villagers, who are refusing to sell their land.

Around 2.30 pm on Wednesday, a HIDCO officer and a member of consultancy firm WEBCON visited Baligudi. As soon as their car reached the village, a mob came running towards them and forced them back into their vehicle. The villagers ordered them to leave.

About 5,000 farmers of Patharghata, Baligudi, Jodhbhil and Natunpukur areas, on the city’s eastern fringes, are protesting the “landgrab” by HIDCO, nodal agency for the development of Rajarhat New Town.

CPM panchayat members have joined Trinamul Congress workers at Chakpachuria and Patharghata to protest HIDCO’s “usurpation of land from poor farmers”. The villagers also told mediapersons of their grievances on Wednesday.

“We do not want to sell our farmland. The crop we harvest is barely enough to sustain our families. But HIDCO officials are forcing us to sell the land to them at a throwaway price of Rs 8,000 per cottah. When we refused, they deployed goons to terrorise us,” said Monoranjan Mondal, of South Chakpachuria village. To save his property, Mondal has moved high court.

Momin Ali Molla, CPM member of Patharghata gram panchayat, complained: “Our senior party members have been repeatedly told about the farmers’ fears but no action has been forthcoming.”

Most of the villagers accused HIDCO executive engineer Anjan Das of creating pressure on them. “Das comes with goons who we suspect are armed. Even yesterday, he arrived here and threatened us. We know two of his musclemen, who are from nearby Keshtopur,” they said.

Das, however, denied the allegations. Housing minister Goutam Deb said he was not aware of any coercion by HIDCO officials for getting land for the New Town.

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