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Laloo springs to lake settlers' rescue

Calcutta, April 16: Laloo Prasad Yadav touched down in the city and gave illegal settlers on both sides of the railway track along Rabindra Sarobar a new lease of life.

The railway minister, who sipped his morning tea with Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, said 'there will be no forceful eviction' on either side of the track, between Ballygunge and Tollygunge stations. 'The settlers will remain where they are now till we can find land for their rehabilitation.'

Laloo Prasad paid a visit to Mamata's Kalighat home, taking the Trinamul chief, who was fast asleep, by surprise.

The minister, who also met Trinamul legislator Saugata Roy today, said the railways would not evict encroachers anywhere in the country. 'The railways have lots of unutilised land. So there is absolutely no need for forceful eviction of these people. We are trying to make commercial use of this land. This will be part of our efforts to mobilise resources,' he said.

The minister was addressing a function to celebrate the Railway Board's 50th railway week at Eastern Railway's sports complex in Behala.

Calcutta High Court had recently directed the railways to identify settlers who have been living along the tracks for a long time and possess voters identity cards. It asked the railways to erect a wall between the encroachments and Rabindra Sarobar.

The railway minister visited the Kalighat temple in the morning and then made a 'courtesy call' on Mamata.

'Mamataji is a former railway minister. When I heard that she lives near the Kali temple, I decided to visit her. In fact, she was fast asleep when I went there early in the morning and was surprised to see me. I also met her mother and had a cup of tea,' he said.

Asked what had transpired at the meeting, Laloo Prasad said: 'We discussed the lake eviction issue. I assured her that there would be no forcible eviction of the settlers.'

Heaping praises on Mamata, the railway minister described her as 'sadgi ka pratik (a symbol of simplicity)'.

Sougata Roy, who has been spearheading the anti-eviction campaign along with Mamata, said Laloo Prasad told him that he was against eviction of poor people. 'The railway minister said he would instruct his department to arrange for land for their rehabilitation.'

He added that Mamata has also requested Laloo Prasad to absorb contract labourers working for Metro railway.

At the Behala function, the minister stressed on internal resource mobilisation of the railways 'so that we need not depend on others.'

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