|The NH6 passing through Panskura town. Telegraph picture
Tamluk, March 18: The East Midnapore district administration has decided to de-requisition 22 acres it had acquired two years ago for broadening NH6 from four lanes to six in Panskura after villagers demanded Rs 2-3 crore an acre, claiming this was the current market rate.
Highway officials, who met district magistrate Parwez Ahmed Siddique on March 4 to take the decision on returning the land, today said the 22 acres would not be required for the six-laning as the National Highways Authority of India now planned to use excess land acquired in the area in 2002.
Today, additional district magistrate Suman Hawaladar said: “About 22 acres were acquired in 2011 for six-laning of the highway in Panskura. But the compensation could not be decided upon because the villagers said they would accept compensation according to the (current) market rate. Highway officials have told us that the expansion is possible without acquiring the 22 acres. So we have started the de-requisitioning process.”
About a year ago, the villagers formed a Jami Suraksha Sangram Committee to agitate against the acquisition of land. The forum was backed by the SUCI.
“The market price is between Rs 2 crore and Rs 3 crore an acre. The administration said the price is too high. They did not declare the compensation package. So we decided not to give our land,” the committee’s chief Gourhari Khanra said today.
Since the highway was four-laned in 2002, land prices have shot up to about Rs 1 crore an acre but there are no reports of land selling at Rs 2-3 crore an acre. A district official said the demand of such a price was “absurd”.
According to district officials, the notification for acquiring land was issued in August 2011 to the residents of five villages — Naranda, Kanakpur, Mahatpur, Joykrishnapur and Paschim Nakra.
The NHAI project director, Anil Dixit, said: “We have not been able to start work on the project for the past 11 months because of the protests. On re-designing the plan, we realised that the six-laning work was possible without further acquiring land.”
The district administration had in 2002 acquired excess land to widen the highway from two lanes to four. The NHAI plans to use this excess land for the current project.
Sources said “re-designing” would mean doing away with beautification and the laying of a service road. “We will not be able to plant trees along the 5km stretch. A service road will also not be possible,” an NHAI official said.
A district official said a provision of the land acquisition act was being invoked to de-requisition the plots. “If the compensation package is not declared within two years of the notification, the plots can be returned. In this case, the two years will complete on August 19,” the official said.
On March 15, the committee submitted a plea to the district administration requesting quick return of their land.