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Encroachment glare on party offices

- East Midnapore survey shows 48 Trinamul and CPM structures on govt land

Tamluk, May 6: Nearly 50 CPM and Trinamul Congress offices have come up on government land, a survey by district officials in East Midnapore has revealed.

The 48 party offices are among 2,700 constructions named illegal in the survey conducted over March and April.

While Trinamul has set up 39, most of them trade union offices, nine were constructed by its rival.

Sources in the administration said Trinamul offices mushroomed in Haldia after the party won both the Lok Sabha seats from East Midnapore in 2009. Of the 39, a dozen were set up after the ruling party’s landslide victory in last year’s Assembly polls in which it won all the 16 seats in the district.

Suman Haoladar, the additional district magistrate of Haldia, said the number of illegal constructions named in the survey was alarming and a decision had been taken to demolish them immediately.

“The survey has revealed that shops, huts, shanties and party offices have come up on government land. We held a meeting on April 19 with senior district officials and representatives of local MLAs and MPs. A unanimous decision has been taken to demolish these illegal structures. We will undertake the drive in June after the municipal polls in Haldia,” Haoladar said.

The survey had been ordered by the administration after a complaint from the Indian Oil Corporation about constructions over its Haldia-Barauni pipeline.

Shibnath Sarkar, the district president of the INTTUC, Trinamul’s trade union arm, said he was unaware of the illegal constructions, but added that he supported the decision to demolish the structures.

“These trade union and party offices were set up without our knowledge and this violates the instruction of Mamata Banerjee, who has clearly said party offices should not be set up on government land. We welcome the administration’s decision to demolish these offices. We will see to it that our party workers set up offices on purchased or donated lands,” Sarkar said.

Asked how he had been unaware of so many illegal constructions by his party despite being the district chief, the leader refused comment.

The Telegraph had in March reported about similar encroachment by more than 20 Trinamul offices in Durgapur.

An INTTUC leader in Haldia defended the constructions, saying the trade union was not a very stable organisation financially before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. “So, we could not purchase land to set up offices. We built them wherever we found vacant land. If the administration and the leadership want, we will shift our offices,” the leader said.

Trinamul MLA Shiuli Saha insisted that while evicting people living in the shanties, the administration should make alternative arrangements for them.

“There are thousands of poor shanty dwellers in Haldia. If the government wants to evict them, they should be provided with an alternative arrangement,” Saha said.

A CPM leader said he did “agree” that “some” party and trade union offices had come up on government land.

“But not all. We are okay with the government’s decision and will shift our offices,” said Sudarshan Manna, the CPM zonal committee secretary.