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Villagers want deal with investors, not govt

Tamluk, Oct. 23: Around 500 villagers today prevented officials from carrying out a survey for land acquisition in a Haldia village, demanding direct talks with investors on selling their land.

Ship builder Bharti Shipyard needs around 400 acres on the bank of the Hooghly at Geonkhali, 140km from Calcutta.

The company has promised to invest Rs 2,000 crore over the next 10 years in the shipyard to be built in collaboration with Apeejay Group.

After a meeting on September 17, the government had asked the East Midnapore administration to identify a plot and conduct a survey so that the investors could be shown the land. The Badur, Deulpota and Bhangagora mouzas were identified.

Badal Maity, the CPM chief of Betkunda gram panchayat, said the villagers had agreed to hand over their land against “adequate compensation” at a meeting with the Haldia Development Authority (HDA).

The Badur and Bhanga- gora panchayat members and many villagers had attended the meeting, but not the Trinamul Congress member from Deulpota.

Trinamul member Madhuri Chakraborty today alleged that only around 25 CPM supporters had attended the meeting in Haldia.

“We will not attend any meeting with the HDA because the people do not want it to acquire the land. The villagers will sell their land only to the investor because they feel they will get a better deal,” she said.

A team of six led by HDA assistant executive officer Piyush Sardar reached Badur around 12.30pm to identify houses, encroachers and vacant land. CPM leader Maity accompanied them.

As the three-car convoy rolled in, the villagers, many of them women, blocked its way. The mob surrounded the team for about an hour and shouted anti-acquisition slogans. A similar scene greeted the team at Bhangagora.

“The HDA did not speak to the villagers before deciding to acquire the land. We have informed the team that we’ll sell our land directly to the companies investing in the project, but not to the authority,” said Gautam Batabyal, of De-ulpota, the local postmaster.

Most of the land in the three mouzas yield two paddy crops — aman and boro — besides betel leaves and vegetables.

“We are putting off our survey for the time being. We’ll hold talks with the villagers again,” said Sardar.

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