A portion of the land in Kaligunj
Durgapur, July 25: The government’s decision to allow a forensic lab and a hospital to come up on a stretch of land in Durgapur lying unused for 50 years has prompted farmers demanding their plots back to threaten a hunger strike if units generating employment for them were not set up.
The farmers had been demanding that the 92 acres be either returned to them or they be given compensation at the present market rate. They had not accepted compensation cheques, saying the amount was not adequate.
“The land was acquired in 1964 for industry. But in the past 48 years, only a sewage treatment plant and a solid waste management plant came up on 15 acres, while the rest of the land has been lying idle. Now we hear that the Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) has decided allow a wing of the state forensic science laboratory and a private multi-specialty hospital to come up on the land,” said Nimai Ghosh, 60, a retired state dairy employee whose 2.63 acres were acquired.
“If these two units come up here, our children won’t get any jobs. Private hospitals and forensic labs do not generate enough employment. We don’t need them here. We will launch a hunger strike if industries in which we can get jobs don’t come up here,” Ghosh added.
The two facilities will come up on 8.5 acres.
The farmers today said they would launch the hunger strike on August 9 and submitted a memorandum to the ADDA authorities protesting the decision to set up the facilities in Kaligunj. They requested ADDA chairman Tapas Banerjee that factories that can generate employment be built on the land.
The landlosers, most of whom claimed they had voted for Trinamul in the last Assembly elections, accused the party-run ADDA board of not following the government’s decision to set up industry on land acquired for industry.
“How could the ADDA board decide to set up a laboratory and a private hospital on our land? We used to cultivate the land as it was lying unused for decades. After Trinamul took charge of the ADDA last year, it stopped us from cultivating the land. We had voted for Trinamul in the Assembly polls, now we feel cheated,” said Anandagopal Sen, 46, whose 2.26-acre plot had been acquired.
The ADDA, at a recent board meeting attended by chairman Banerjee and Durgapur MLAs Apurba Mukherjee and Nikhil Banerjee, approved a proposal to allot 5 acres for the private hospital and 3.5 acres for the directorate of state forensic science laboratory.
Trinamul sources said a promoter with party links had expressed interest to set up the hospital, another unit of which will come up in Asansol.
Sudhajit Mukherjee, a former local Trinamul leader who severed ties with the party to lead the farmers' protest, said: “We will stage demonstrations and organise a two-day hunger strike in front of the ADDA office. We will not allow them to set up the hospital and the laboratory on the land.”
ADDA chairman Banerjee said: “The hospital can be built under the public-private partnership model. Any private company can come forward. We will soon invite expression of interest from hospital chains.”
Asked why the board decided to allow such facilities to come up on land acquired for industry, he said: “I was not aware if the land in Durgapur was taken for industry. I will look into the matter but if anybody has any objection, the matter can be sorted out through discussions.”