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Tank & park ‘ploy’ hits Bird revival

Calcutta, March 20: A Trinamul-run municipality has been accused of usurping land apparently belonging to a central government undertaking in Ultadanga despite prohibitory orders by the high court.

The allegation has prompted many to wonder if Mamata Banerjee’s message of extending all possible help to industry has trickled down to the grassroots.

Bird Jute and Exports Limited (BJEL), a sick unit that owns 49 acres off VIP Road, has recently begun efforts of revival.

The Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, which identifies sick units and recommends measures to put them back on their feet if possible, has suggested that Bird sell a portion its land to raise money to make a new beginning.

Officials of the company, where Amitabh Bachchan had worked in the 1960s, said they were banking on the high price the land was expected to fetch because of its prime location. The market price of a cottah in the area is Rs 45 lakh. One bigha, which is equal to nearly 20 cottahs, will fetch Rs 9 crore.

“We have plans to sell 33 acres of the 49 acres we have. But we don’t know whether we can implement our plan as land belonging to us is being encroached upon despite Calcutta High Court’s intervention,” said an official of the Union textiles ministry, which runs BJEL.

The company is locked in a legal battle with the South Dum Dum municipality since June 2012, when BJEL went to court seeking an order preventing the Trinamul-run civic body from building a reservoir on what the firm claims is its land. The court had then issued a stay order.

The matter has also reached the chief minister’s office. In January, Union textile minister Kavuru Sambasiva Rao wrote to Mamata informing her about the alleged encroachment on BJEL’s land.

“The municipality has built a water reservoir on 3 cottahs of our land. Now, it is building a park on another one bigha. Both these land parcels fall in the area we have decided to sell,” said a BJEL official.

As land is the only asset the company can monetise without facing hurdles, BJEL officials are upset with the Trinamul-run municipality for allegedly encroaching on the land despite the court’s stay order.

BJEL filed a contempt petition in Calcutta High Court earlier this month, accusing the municipality of carrying on the construction work of the reservoir despite the stay order.

The administrative calendar of the Bengal government shows that the water reservoir was supposed to be completed by March 15, the petition alleges.

Sujit Bose, the vice-chairman of the South Dum Dum municipality, said the reservoir had begun supplying water to people living in the civic body’s area.

“They (BJEL) are claiming it is their land. But there was no wall to demarcate it as their land. The reservoir will benefit thousands of people,” Bose said.

The company contested Bose’s claims.

According to a company official, the boundary walls have been pulled down and shops and playgrounds have come up with the “tacit support” of local politicians as the land has been lying idle since 2002, when production stopped.

The court has asked the block land and land reforms officer of Barrackpore II to be present during the next hearing, scheduled for March 24.

“We are trying to revive the company, but instead of helping us, the ruling establishment is taking away our land,” a Union textile ministry source said.