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Cultivation resumes on acquired plots
- Land-losers make use of unutilised site of Jalpaiguri circuit bench

Siliguri, Sept. 5: Farmers whose plots on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town had been acquired for setting up a circuit bench of Calcutta High Court have resumed cultivation on the land after it lay unused for the past six years.

“Siliguri-Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) had acquired 105 acre on the outskirts of the town in 2002. Later, SJDA handed over 40 acres in Mahutpara to the Jalpaiguri district administration, which, in turn, gave it to the Bengal judicial department last year for the circuit bench,” said Panku Das, the secretary of the Paharpur Save Farmland Committee.

“The farmers had given their land without any opposition, but when they found that not a single brick had been laid there till now, they resumed cultivation on the plots,” Das added.

Manjur Haque, one of the former owners of the land, said: “We had given our land for public purpose because like any other resident of Jalpaiguri, we too want the circuit bench to start here. But over the years, no construction came up. So we resumed cultivation in the area.”

According to Haque, 10-15 farmers, most of them land-losers, have started cultivating paddy on the 40 acres.

“The SJDA had paid us Rs 60,000 per bigha,” said Waked Ali, another farmer. “We are not against the acquisition, but will continue cultivation until construction starts.”

Haque echoed him. “The day we see trucks carrying building material enter the site, we will stop farming. But till then, cultivation will continue,” he said.

The subdivisional officer of Jalpaiguri Sadar, Atanu Roy, termed the farmers’ action illegal. “There are provisions in the Land Acquisition Act that say any person from whom land has been acquired but kept unutilised can use it for agricultural activities after taking permission but only up to a specific date after which they must stop doing so,” Roy said. “No such permission was taken in this case, which means it is illegal.”

District magistrate Bandana Yadav called a meeting today to discuss the matter. “She wrote a letter to the state judicial secretary,” Roy said.

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