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CM’s ‘not an inch’ moment

Calcutta, Oct. 16: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today admitted that acquiring even “an inch of land” in Bengal has become a problem but the champion of land-related protests was quick to add that there has been “misuse” of land as well.

The chief minister, who rode to power last year on anti-acquisition protests and has stuck to the hands-off land policy since then, was speaking at the inauguration of the Puja guide by Calcutta Traffic Police at Town Hall.

“If we want to expand a stretch of road and have to remove a shop, there will be a hue and cry. It’s difficult to acquire even one inch of land,” said Mamata.

The admission, however, was not related to land acquisition for industry. The chief minister was trying to explain why citizens should not expect overnight transformation of traffic infrastructure in Calcutta despite best efforts by the government.

There was, however, no hint of any review of the government’s hands-off land policy, which has come in the way of expansion of highways and growth of industry.

At present, the state government is struggling to expand certain stretches of roads, including national highways across Bengal.

Unable to expand a vital stretch of NH 34 between Calcutta airport and Barasat from two to four lanes, the Union highways ministry had decided to return the stretch to the state amid concerns on the fate of the remaining 444-km highway.

Recently, engineers from the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) faced stiff resistance from a section of local traders in Barasat, where they had gone to survey land required for expanding the highway.