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CPM return bid on land crutches

CPM workers lead the rally in Kaliganj. (Arup Sarkar)

Durgapur, Aug. 7: The CPM today led an agitation of farmers near Durgapur demanding Rs 2,000 as monthly allowance for the landlosers who have refused compensation cheques, in what is being seen as a desperate comeback bid for the party in the former Red bastion.

Around 500 farmers and their families of Kaliganj, led by CPM local committee secretary Pankaj Roy Sarkar, also demanded that “job-generating industries” be set up on the 92 acres acquired five decades ago.

CPM workers and the farmers demonstrated outside the office of the sub-divisional officer of Durgapur, Ayesha Rani A., and submitted a deputation to her and Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) chief Tapas Banerjee. This is the first movement backed by the CPM in the area after the poll debacle last year.

“These farmers have been cultivating on the land that was acquired in 1964 by the then government. The state has said it is a government plot. What will the farmers do now? We demand they be given allowance of Rs 2,000 on the lines of Singur,” Roy Sarkar said.

The land was acquired between 1964 and 1967 at Rs 840 an acre. Fifty-two farmers of the total 369 had then refused to accept cheques saying villagers in neighbouring Gopinathpur and Radhamadhabpur mouzas were offered Rs 3,600 to Rs 5,400 an acre while they were being paid only Rs 840 for the same.

The farmers are now demanding they be given the current market price, which is not less than 1.2 crore an acre.

Kaliganj comes under the Jemua gram panchayat, where the CPM lost grip after the Assembly and the civic polls.

Roy Sarkar today criticised the ADDA’s decision to allot some portion of the land for setting up a private hospital and a forensic laboratory instead of industries that would generate employment for the villagers.

“Minister Partha Chatterjee had said only industries would come up on the land. Why has the Trinamul-led ADDA allowed the setting up of a private hospital and a forensic laboratory? We demand job-generating industries here, which was our motto when we were in the government. We will not allow the ADDA to use the land for the interest of promoters,” Roy Sarkar said.

Among the agitators were 300 Muslim families who were denied land pattas and were being allegedly threatened by Trinamul workers for voting for the CPM in the last Assembly polls.

The Trinamul Congress termed the allegations “baseless”. “The CPM is trying to highlight issues that are non-existent,” said Apurba Mukherjee, the Trinamul president in Burdwan (industrial).

Ayesha Rani A said the farmers’ grievances would be looked into.