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Raiganj protest to offer land

Raiganj, Aug. 31: Around 300 farmers from Sitgram blocked NH34 for an hour today declaring they were willing to give up land so that an AIIMS-like facility can come up here.

Chief secretary Samar Ghosh and home secretary Basudeb Banerjee who were on the way to Jalpaiguri to attend the inauguration of the circuit bench scheduled tomorrow, were held up in the blockade for around 10 minutes.

The farmers — who carried a banner that declared “We, the farmers of Panisala will willingly give up our land for the Raiganj AIIMS hospital. We want AIIMS” —blocked the road at Sitgram, 7km from here, from around 8.30am.

Both Panisala and the land earrmarked for the AIIMS-like hospital are in the Sitgram panchayat area.

Yesterday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said yesterday in Itahar that she had no objection to the AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj if the state was provided 100 acres for the project.

In 2009, the Union cabinet had approved the setting up of the hospital in Raiganj and sanctioned Rs 823 crore for it.

In 2010, the North Dinajpur administration earmarked a 100-acre plot in Panisala for the hospital.

Latuf Ali, one of the farmers at the protest site, said three acres of his land was within the area demarcated for the hospital.

“I told them they could take my land any time they wanted.”

Nabokanto Barman, a farmer from Panisala, alleged that the state was delaying the project citing one excuse after other.

“Now that we have declared our intention, the chief minister should carry out the promise she made yesterday. If she does not, we will not allow acquisition of land for the four-laning of NH34.”

The National Highways Authority of India is in the process of acquiring land in Panisala to expand the highway that connects Barasat to Dalkhola.

Raiganj Congress MP Deepa Das Munshi said: “She (Mamata) will flood the district with announcements of projects but she will not allow the AIIMS-like hospital to come up here. Who is she to give us the hospital? It is a central government project and they will bear the entire cost. The state will only have to provide the land.”

Deepa, a known Mamata baiter, said she would launch a movement demanding the hospital. “We will launch a movement across north Bengal on September 19.”

North Dinajpur Trinamul Congress president and Itahar MLA Amal Acharya said: “Congress leaders are provoking the farmers. It is an attempt to create disturbance during the chief minister’s visit.”