June 10: The Trinamul Congress today participated in an all-party meeting on land acquisition convened by NTPC for its proposed 1,320MW thermal power plant at Burdwan’s Katwa and promised to play the role of a “catalyst” in helping the central utility purchase plots directly.
The timing of the move, which marked a sea change in the party’s stand on land for the project in a little over three years, hinted at latent political concerns after the Lok Sabha poll results showed significant Opposition gains in seven Assembly segments in and around the site.
“Trinamul will happily play the role of a catalyst. Land must not stand in the way when people are willingly parting with it for industry,” said Trinamul’s Ketugram MLA Sheikh Shahnawaz after the meeting at the SDO’s office.
The ruling party today went to the extent of requesting NTPC to double the capacity — 2,640MW instead of the sanctioned plan of 1,320MW and four units instead of two — for the benefit of the region. Even if twice the quantum of land is required, according to Shahnawaz, “willing participation of land-owners will simply not be an issue”.
The utility possesses 556 acres acquired by the Left government and needs another 227 acres. Following Mamata’s “gift” of 97 acres before the general election, it has to buy 130 acres directly from around 1,100 land-owners.
Trinamul sources said the decision to help accelerate the Rs 9,000-crore project was taken at the “highest level” of the government after the elections. While the CPM led in the Ketugram and Katwa Assembly segments, the BJP was ahead in Mangalkot, Raina, Memari and Purbasthali North and South. The Ketugram and Mangalkot segments are under the Bolpur Lok Sabha seat, while the rest are part of the Burdwan East parliamentary constituency.
“The sluggish progress of the project is causing discontent,” a source said.
Less than a fortnight after Trinamul came to power in 2011, Mamata Banerjee had declared that the government would not acquire “even an inch” of land for the project.
NTPC’s eastern regional chairman Mahendra Singh said the utility would start the process of buying land from tomorrow. “It’s great to see everyone coming together for the realisation of this dream project,” Singh said.
After the meeting, 53 land-owners from Koshigram’s Sahapur gave a letter to Singh declaring their willingness to part with around 80 acres.