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NH block threat in bypass protest

Durgapur, Dec. 6: Over 100 villagers in Panagarh whose land has been identified for the much-needed bypass to ease traffic on NH2 today threatened to block the highway “for days” at a demonstration demanding the district administration discuss with them the price.

The villagers, under the Bypass Land losers’ Committee, have demanded a uniform rate of Rs 1.2 crore per acre instead of the administration’s offer between Rs 13 lakh and Rs 1.04 crore an acre depending on the plot’s proximity from the highway.

“Administrative officials have to sit with us for an agreement on the rate. We have laid down our demands on Monday. But nobody has approached us. We will not accept whatever they give us as compensation. We will now block the highway for days if the administration does not respond,” said Niladri Mukherjee, the secretary of the “apolitical” committee whose one-acre plot has been identified for the 12km, four-lane bypass.

The administration has insisted that land will not be acquired by force and claimed that their offer was the “highest” in the state.

Today, Burdwan district magistrate Onkar Singh Meena said: “We will sit with the land losers soon along with NHAI officials. The land will be acquired under the NH act. We assure best possible rates. There will be no confusion and forcible acquisition,”

The villagers, mostly farmers, said a monthly allowance and a government job for each affected family would also have to be given to them. Some of them even demanded they be engaged for supplying materials for the bypass. The bypass project, skirting the Calcutta-Delhi NH2 stretch through the Panagarh market which often sees long hours of traffic snarls, has been in the pipeline for one-and-half years.