The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Parties strike when Burdwan iron is hot

Asansol/Calcutta, June 17: The Opposition waded into the anti-land acquisition war in Purushottampur today, prompting the ruling CPM to dub it an attempt to gain “cheap political mileage”.

Minutes after 700 villagers fought police to prevent the administration from taking possession of land for the modernisation of IISCO, Trinamul Congress and Congress workers put up blockades in parts of Asansol and Burnpur.

They also ransacked a police station and threatened to call an Asansol bandh if the police did not release by tomorrow the 126 arrested villagers.

“The real motive of the Opposition is to gain cheap political mileage. They want to do what they have already done in Singur and Nandigram — frustrate the state’s industrialisation drive. This will harm the Rs 10,000-crore modernisation and expansion programme,” CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar said in Calcutta.

Konar, who hails from Burdwan under which Asansol falls, warned that people of the state would not “forgive” the “irresponsible Opposition”.

Bansagopal Chowdhury, the local CPM MP who heads the Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority (Adda), pointed out that villagers had not objected during the acquisition of land in 1989.

“In fact, the villagers of Hirapur and Nagrasoda accepted cheques against their land. But some outsiders today tried to misguide the villagers of Purushottampur with a political motive,” he said.

Trianmul and the Congress, buoyed by the success against the land acquisition movement in Nandigram, is believed to be looking to gain a foothold in pockets of Burdwan, where they faced a rout in the 2006 Assembly polls.

Out of the 26 Assembly seats in the Red bastion, Trinamul had bagged Kulti and Purbasthali, while the Congress won Katwa.

Congress leader Manas Bhunia today accused the government and the CPM-controlled Adda of giving land-losers half the compensation paid by the steel company.

“This shoddy underpayment triggered today’s protest as those who have received the cheques, and the 120 families who have not, felt cheated by the Adda,” Bhunia said.

He also suggested that the government set up an all-party committee to look into the farmers’ grievances.

Opposition leaders said they had stepped in when the police attacked women and children.

“Our men cannot sit idle when police mercilessly beat up women,” Trinamul MLA Partha Banerjee said.

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