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Uniform-rate cry for Panagarh land

- Road to ease highway congestion, villagers demand Rs 1.2 crore per acre

Durgapur, Dec. 3: Villagers whose land has been identified for a much-needed bypass in Panagarh to ease traffic on NH2 have demanded a uniform price instead of the government’s offer to pay them according to the plot’s proximity to the highway.

The district administration had decided on a price range between Rs 13 lakh and Rs 1.04 crore an acre to pay the farmers, but the villagers in seven mouzas have asked for a flat rate of Rs 1.2 crore per acre.

The villagers yesterday formed a Panagarh Bypass Land Losers’ Committee at a meeting and also demanded a permanent job for at least one member of each family in either the National Highways Authority of India, which will lay the highway bypass road, or in any other government office.

“The administration is trying to create a division among the villagers by offering different rates (to different people). We want a uniform price so that there is no room for complaint. We want Rs 1.2 crore an acre for all. Land is our only source of income. If we lose that, the government must give us jobs in the NHAI or in any other government department,” said Niladri Mukherjee, the secretary of the committee whose one-acre plot has been identified for acquisition.

“We will not give our land until our demands are met.”

The Panagarh Bypass Land Losers’ Committee claims to be an apolitical organisation.

The Burdwan administration had one-and-half-years ago started the land acquisition process but was only able to complete certain formalities like fixing up the price range. The land department will acquire 25.36 acres of single-crop land in seven mouzas in Panagarh and Budbud for the 12km, four-lane bypass.

The villagers had on November 29 prevented land officials from carrying out a survey, demanding that the administration discuss the price of the land with them first. When a team from the land department went to some of the villages, the residents said they would decide on the price at a meeting on Sunday.

The 3.2km bottleneck stretch of the Calcutta-New Delhi NH2 that passes through Pangarh market often sees long hours of traffic snarls, which become worse in the evening because of the large number of trucks that passes through the single-lane stretch.

The Burdwan administration has decided to “go-slow” on land acquisition after the November 29 protest, fearing a repetition of the land-related clash in Birbhum’s Loba last month.

Today, additional district magistrate (land acquisition) Utpal Biswas said: “We know about the meeting on Sunday and the villagers’ demands. We have decided on the price according to the current market rate. What we are offering is most lucrative. We will again hold meetings with the villagers. The matter will be sorted out through discussions. We will not go for any forcible acquisition.”

Land brokers confirmed that the rate offered by the district administration was “more than enough”.

A villager, Krishna Dayal Karmakar, said the government had in 2007 offered a flat rate of Rs 10.80 lakh an acre for a fertiliser plant in Panagarh. “The administration should follow the same rule here,” he said.

Sources said some villagers who had formed syndicates to supply construction materials for the fertiliser plant have also requested the district administration to engage them while laying the bypass.