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GTA shows land holders’ letter

Darjeeling, June 24: The GTA today released a letter written by 12 landowners from Jamuni in 2012 that said they were “happy” with the hill body’s decision to acquire land for a tourist spot and they should be given compensation according to government norms.

The GTA’s decision to release the letter came soon after nine landowners issued a statement under the official letterhead of Trinamul stating they were ready to testify against GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung. They alleged that GTA took land forcibly and they were being threatened.

While releasing the letter, a copy of which is with The Telegraph, an official said: “Twelve landowners wrote to Bimal Gurung (GTA chief executive) saying they were ‘happy’ with the decision to acquire land and that they should be given compensation according to government norms. The letter was written on December 26, 2012. How can they now claim that we are forcefully acquiring land? The same people had written to the GTA on November 11, 2013, saying they should be given compensation by December 31, 2013. We had started the process but it is never possible to complete paper work and give compensation in one-and-a-half-months.”

Of the 12, two have been given compensation according to GTA sources and nine had issued the protest statement. The only remaining case is of Dil Maya Bhutia. Her two brothers, signatories to the protest letter, gifted her a plot. The papers are yet to reach her.

The GTA official said they wrote to the Darjeeling district magistrate on May 22, this year. The letter said: “... The landholders have offered their land to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) for acquisition for public purpose. As you are the relevant authority at the district level to initiate the land acquisition process, we request you to please initiate proceedings according to applicable land acquisition laws……”

Roshan Rai and Lal Bahadur Rasaily, who had written to GTA in December 2012, had given land at the rate of Rs 8 lakh per acre, GTA sources said.

Shree Prasad Dewan admitted that they had agreed to give land. “We waited for compensation but since we got nothing, we approached the district magistrate. We are entitled to four times the rate (Rs 8 lakh per acre). We should also be given a permanent job, rehabilitation and a house,” said Dewan who has 2.2 acres.

The GTA official said Manilal Tamang who had alleged that he was being threatened does not own land in the area.