Silt dumped on land in Bhagabanpur. Picture by Jahangir Badsa
Tamluk, Oct. 4: Villagers led by a Trinamul leader are resisting land acquisition for a desilting project in East Midnapore, saying most of their families were yet to receive compensation for plots acquired for a similar scheme in 1972.
The residents of Bhagabanpur village also complained that during the first phase of the project between April and June, silt from the Kapaleswari, Keleghai and Bagui rivers was dumped on their land without their permission.
The project, part of the government’s flood-control measures, was inaugurated in February by chief minister Mamata Banerjee and then Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The irrigation department, which is executing the project, needs 150 acres to dump silt. The land will be acquired permanently as there are plans of building embankments and roads once the desilting project is over.
“We have to acquire 1,700 acres to dump the silt. In the first phase, we need 150 acres in 32 villages in Moyna, Bhagabanpur and Patashpur,” a district official said.
Work is expected to resume after the departure of the monsoon this month.
This morning, the Trinamul leader leading the agitation against the acquisition, Nantu Pradhan, demonstrated in front of the Bhagabanpur panchayat with around 200 villagers. They submitted a charter of demands.
“The villagers are against the acquisition because many of these families did not get compensation for land acquired for a desilting project in 1972. We will allow land acquisition only if the farmers get what has been due for 40 years,” said Nantu, whose father Chandhari is the chief of the Trinamul-run Mohammadpur panchayat in Bhagabanpur.
Sanjoy Mondal, a resident of Uttarbar village in Bhagabanpur, said: “In 1972, the government acquired one acre from my father. We are yet to receive the compensation. We will oppose land acquisition until we get the money.”
A district official said it was “not possible to say off-hand” why a section of villagers did not get their compensation cheques. “We will have to look into our records to find out why the compensation was not paid. If some villagers did not receive the compensation, they will be paid the money along with 12 per cent annual interest,” he said.
The villagers are also angry that the irrigation department dumped the silt during the ongoing project on their land, as a result of which they could not grow crops.
“The irrigation department has dumped silt on my one-bigha plot. I cultivate paddy, jute and vegetables. Because of the dumping, I can’t cultivate the land,” said Mukunda Maiti, a resident of Paschimbar village.
The executive engineer of the irrigation department in East Midnapore, Tapas Maity, said desilting started before land acquisition because the work “is in public interest”. “Had we waited for land acquisition, the project would have been delayed. The villagers will be duly compensated when the acquisition takes place,” he said.
The ADM in charge of land acquisition, Suman Hawladar, said: “If anyone has any objection, he can approach us.”