Guwahati, Feb. 24: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi kept it simple and straight.
“You voted for us in the past, so we have been able to help you today. Keep helping us in the coming election, we will continue to help you,” Gogoi said today, after handing over a letter allotting 1 kotha 5 lesa land to Purnima Saikia, mother of Dipamoni, a lawyer who died in the blast in front of the court of Kamrup chief judicial magistrate on October 30, 2008.
Saikia, 75, has been living on a government plot at Kahilipara here without a land deed since 1976.
“My daughter ran from office to office for land deed and today, she would have been happy,” said Dipamoni’s mother on the sidelines of the function to distribute land deeds.
Nearly two hours before the function, though, another land patta seeker, Pranab Boro, 45, immolated himself in front of the state secretariat after having waited for years in vain.
Sushil Kumar Baruah, 82, a retired railway employee, was more fortunate. He, like Saikia, was among the 130 families (living on government land without deed) who were given allotment letters and will be given pattas after depositing 40 per cent of the land value. “Widows and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will get 25 per cent concession. We have decided to give preference to BPL families,” Gogoi said. “We want help from you in the coming election,” he added.
The land deed has been a long-pending demand for those living on the hills and government land in Guwahati. However, the KMSS and the Opposition have raised questions about the timing of the allotment.
“The distribution ahead of the election is nothing but a Congress bid to woo voters,” KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi had said yesterday.
The chief minister today denied the charge, saying that the talks for allotment had started three years ago.
“Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, in a convention of those seeking land at Mach-khowa on October 30, 2013, had announced the government’s decision. We had even informed Akhil Gogoi during the meeting on December 9. Giving patta is a continuous process and Akhil was clearly told that it would take at least three years,” state revenue minister Prithibi Majhi said.
Gogoi said the government would offer land deeds to those who had lived on government land for 10 years till June 28, 2011, but not to those living on the hills, forests and waterbodies. “We can’t destroy our environment further. We may consider giving deeds if they agree to shift to other places,” the chief minister added.
The KMSS asked why the official quarters of the chief minister, governor and other ministers were on the hills.
The date of distribution of deeds was announced after the cabinet meeting last week.
The Congress feels distribution of land deeds could help garner the votes of the landless in the Guwahati seat, which is being held by the BJP.
The reaction of a senior Congress leader reflected this. “Please don’t forget our government had enrolled 60,000 school teachers under TET, over 40,000 Anganwadis, 10,000 policemen and another 20,000 in the health department,” he said while dwelling on the Congress’s prospects in the polls.