A man collects cash from the district collectorate in Darjeeling on Monday. Picture by Suman Tamang
Darjeeling, March 18: The West Bengal State Electricity Development Corporation Limited today paid “rental compensation” to 37 families 17 years after the state power company used their land to widen a road near a hydel project site to move machinery.
The WBSEDCL today gave Rs 2,69,089 to the district administration to distribute among the affected families of Lower Bara Pubung Busty, about 45km from Darjeeling town.
Rohit Sharma, the Kurseong Gorkha Janmukti Morcha MLA, said: “In 1995, WBSEDCL had laid a road in the area to ferry their machines to a project site (6km from the village). They (the villagers) were told that a compensation would be given to them within two years but nothing happened.”
The 3MW Mungpoo-Kalikhola hydel project was completed in 1997, sources said, but the villagers did not get any compensation.
“We formed a landlosers’ committee and for 12 years we have been running from pillar to post for our compensation. About a year back, we apprised the Kurseong MLA about our problem,” said B.B. Dahal, president of the committee.
According to Ladup Moktan, the general secretary of the landlosers’ committee, the WBSEDCL had used three acres to widen an existing road. But in 1997, the district administration conducted a survey that revealed 1.19 acre was used for the road expansion.
Gopal Lama, the additional district magistrate of Darjeeling, said: “The land was not acquired so the compensation is being paid by WBSEDCL for using it as they needed to widen the road only to ferry heavy machinery.”
Lama said WBSEDCL had argued that the road was not taken over as WBSEDCL’s property and was now being used by the villagers for their own benefit. “This is why they are being paid rental compensation. This is like a rent for having used the road during the construction phase. The land was not acquired but the compensation is being paid by the WBSEDCL for using it as they needed to widen the road only to ferry heavy machinery,” Lama said.
Today, Rs 2,69,089 was distributed by Sharma and Lama from the district collectorate’s office.
The families received between Rs 2,200 and Rs 18,087, depending on the amount of land that was taken to expand the road. “The cash compensation was paid at the rate of Rs 2,262 per decimal (100 decimals make an acre),” said an official.
Sources said the land reforms department and the power company decided on paying the “rental compensation” basing their calculations on the value of land in 1993-94, which was Rs 2,262 per decimal. The road was widened in 1995.
“The WBSEDCL was of the opinion that they had only widened an existing road to construct a 16ft road and not taken control of the stretch. After much discussion, they agreed to provide compensation for 1.19acre. We are happy that we finally got some amount,” Moktan said.