Nagri villagers clash with police on July 4
Ranchi, July 8: Faced with an imminent Jharkhand High Court hearing on the progress made at Nagri where three premier educational institutes are coming up, a cornered state government has planned a desperate defence to counter allegations of mishandling the issue and escalating the battle of ownership of 227 acres.
According to sources, the government will tell the court of a plan to set up police barracks at the construction sites of three institutions — IIM, NUSRL and IIIT. As matters stand right now, if trouble brews, policemen have to come from Kanke, 4km away. If it snowballs, forces have to be rushed from JAP-10 at Hotwar, 30km away. Personnel also can’t stay the night as there is no infrastructure.
The state government will cite the flight of labourers in the wake of violent protests as one of the reasons behind construction work grinding to a halt. “So, the administration has proposed to set up police barracks at the construction site to facilitate the stay of adequate number of security forces till the campuses are constructed,” a source said.
The state will also inform Jharkhand High Court of a slew of proposals to pacify agitating villagers, provide safety to construction agencies and take the projects ahead. Sources said that the government would also propose “opening dialogue” with villagers and offering grade IV jobs to rural youths.
As ruling allies JMM and Ajsu are backing tribal agitators, the high court remains one of the few friends of the project.
Though a cornered chief minister is keeping mum, sources close to Munda said the state government was ready to renegotiate with the villagers on the compensation amount, but through court only.
Much of the success of the project will depend on whether the agitators listen to the court, which is why the government wants the bench to make an informed decision.
On April 30, the court had directed the state to see to it that the construction of NUSRL was started within 48 hours and take adequate measures in case of disturbance. The court had also threatened to pass a “harsh order” if the construction was held up.
On May 16, while hearing an intervening petition, the court directed the state government to see that no damage was caused to the property of NUSRL and other institutions (read IIM-R and IIIT).
The erstwhile Bihar government had acquired 202.27 acres to expand Birsa Agriculture University and 25.44 acres for a seed farm around 1957-58. The court said the acquisition was being challenged on the grounds that at that time, there was no urgency over taking possession under the provisions of Section 17 (4) of land acquisition act.
“Such an issue cannot be raised by the persons who have no knowledge of the facts of the case and whose ancestors never challenged the acquisition,” the court had said in its order earlier.
Campuses in Nagri on Ranchi’s outskirts would have been the linchpin of Jharkhand’s intellectual revival, but for the land acquisition row. As tribal settlers refuse to give up land and increasingly widen their circle of supporters, the pressure is on the bureaucrats to submit a status report of the law varsity before Jharkhand High Court and convince the bench that there are solutions in sight.
The proposed NUSRL will take up over 63 acres of the 227-acre plot. In all, 214 acres are earmarked for the cradles and 13 acres will go for the Ring Road.
Meanwhile, confusion prevails on the date of submission before the high court.
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On May 16, the court had ordered the report on the status of the law varsity be submitted on July 9, Monday. Advocate-general Anil Kumar Sinha, however, today said the list of cases uploaded on the high court website did not mention this particular one for tomorrow. “It may be taken up day after tomorrow,” he added.
The date may have been extended as Chief Justice Prakash Tatia is away in New Delhi and will return to the capital tomorrow.
The topic is a minefield no one wants to risk stepping on. Chief secretary S.K. Choudhary refused to comment on the issue. Home secretary J.B. Tubid excused himself on the plea that the projects were related to human resources development department.
No “big shot” wanted to comment on the issue. Senior officials have deployed an official of deputy collector rank, the district land acquisition officer (DLAO), to apprise the court of the progress of the NUSRL construction.
Deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey told The Telegraph that the DLAO would file the affidavit to the court.
Choubey remained noncommittal when asked when construction of the three institutes would resume. “It depends on the developments of the coming days,” he said.
On the other hand, Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee and Adivasi Jan Parishad declared that it would hold daylong dharnas before Raj Bhavan tomorrow to demand immediate intervention of Governor Syed Ahmed to stay the attempts of the state to dislodge villagers from their farmlands and protest against the recent police lathicharge.