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Govt go-slow on Panagarh bypass
- Villagers’ protest & Loba clash prompt caution on land acquisition for road to ease NH traffic

Durgapur, Nov. 30: The Burdwan administration has decided to go slow on land acquisition for a bypass to ease traffic on NH2 in Panagarh.

While most district officials said the decision was taken after a section of villagers yesterday prevented land department officials from carrying out a survey for the project, some said the government wanted to tread cautiously after the land-related clash in Birbhum’s Loba on November 6.

“It would be an embarrassment for the government if resentment among the villagers increases like in Singur or, more recently, in Loba. The government is against any forcible land acquisition. So we have decided to go slow on it,” a senior district official said.

The decision will further delay the construction of the 12km bypass, which has been in the pipeline for several years.

The stretch of the Calcutta-New Delhi NH2, which passes through the Panagarh market, is a single-lane road that often witnesses traffic snarls for several hours.

The government will have to acquire 25.36 acres spread across seven mouzas in Panagarh and Budbud for the bypass that will skirt the 3.2km-wide NH2 stretch.

The administration started the land acquisition process one-and-a-half years ago but has only been able to complete formalities like fixing prices for the plots.

Sources said the district administration had fixed prices ranging between Rs 1.04 crore an acre and Rs 13 lakh an acre, depending on proximity from the highway. The price for the houses and trees on the land earmarked for acquisition will be paid separately, they added.

But villagers in the seven mouzas yesterday stalled survey work demanding that the administration discuss the price with them.

“After yesterday’s resentment, we have decided to launch a fresh drive to convince the villagers. We will organise group meetings with them. We will start acquiring land only after they agree to our terms. We hope the matter will be sorted out soon as we are offering the highest rates in the state,” said Utpal Biswas, the additional district magistrate (land acquisition) of Burdwan.

As part of the drive, a team of land department and national highways authority officials today went to the villages and spoke to the residents.

The villagers, who the team said were yet to be convinced, have decided to organise a meeting among themselves on Sunday to discuss the issue.

“We have not been told anything about land price. We came to know about it from newspapers and television channels. But how can they (district administration) fix the price without consulting us? We also want a job for at least one member of each land-loser family. We will hold a meeting to discuss these issues on Sunday,” said Niladri Mukherjee of Sowai, one of the mouzas in which land will be acquired.

Land department sources said a section of villagers who have formed a syndicate to supply construction materials for the Matix fertilizer plant in Panagarh was putting pressure on the administration and the NHAI for engaging them in the bypass project.

“The NHAI will lay the road on our land. So they will have to engage us for supplying raw materials,” a villager said.