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GTA shifts Jamuni project to land nearby

Darjeeling, July 2: The GTA has informed the Darjeeling district magistrate that it wants to relocate the Jamuni tourism project, which ran into trouble after some plot owners alleged that land was taken from them forcibly and they were not compensated.

The decision on the relocation of the project was announced by the district magistrate immediately after the GTA informed the administration of its decision today.

The media release signed by P.D. Bal, district information and cultural officer, read: “A press brief was issued by the office of the district magistrate, Darjeeling, wherein it was informed to all concerned that the GTA has decided to relocate the Jamuni Tourism Project from the disputed plots in Jamuni area.”

According to sources in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the GTA has managed to get land in an area adjacent to the disputed 13 acres.

The landowner was willing to give his plot for the project that has Bimal Gurung’s blessings.

The release said the decision was conveyed to district magistrate Puneet Yadav by the executive director, tourism, of the GTA. The release quoted executive director Sonam Bhutia as saying: “I have been directed to inform you that the ongoing tourism project at Jamuni is being relocated due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Gurung, who is the GTA chief executive, wanted to make a garden and install a statue of the Buddha on the 13 acres.

But nine landowners, who together owned 13 acres, complained to the district magistrate that the GTA had forcibly taken the land from them in 2011 and not yet paid them compensation.

They said they would part with the land only under the supervision of the district magistrate.

The land problem became a political issue after the hill Trinamul openly said it backed the nine landlosers.

Sources in the Morcha said today that the hill party wanted to move on “instead of getting stuck with nine farmers, who were being instigated by Trinamul”.

A Morcha leader said: “The GTA got a good deal after one farmer of an adjacent plot decided to hand over land to them. The project will still happen in the same area and this is most important for us.”

Told about the GTA’s decision to shift the project to an adjacent plot, Binny Sharma, a Trinamul leader in the hills, said: “The Trinamul cannot comment on the decision of the GTA. Our party also wants development in the hills. But it should be done in the right way and right spirit.”

How much land would be made available to the GTA is not yet clear.

“The details of the new plot will be known only after a survey is conducted but the owner has offered the land to the GTA. The rates and other issues, however, have not yet been finalised,” said a source in the Morcha.

The GTA had earlier taken over 1.4 acres from Roshan Rai and 0.60 decimals of land from Lal Bahadur Rasaily at the rate of Rs 8 lakh per acre (100 decimals make an acre).

The GTA has also promised to construct a house for the two families and provide a job to a member of both the families. The GTA has already made a boating complex in the area adjacent to the disputed 13 acres.

After the landlosers complained, district magistrate Yadav imposed prohibitory orders in the area.

On June 17, police also seized two bulldozers, an excavator and a pick-up van and arrested six people for allegedly threatening one of the landowners, Manilal Tamang, whose family owns 8 of the 13 acres of disputed land.

Manilal had said in his complaint to the district magistrate that the six persons threatened him with the backing of Gurung.

GTA member, Kaziman Lohagun, in whose constituency of Bijanbari-Pulbazar the disputed land is located, was arrested on June 27 for allegedly supplying weapons to the six arrested persons.

Lohagun, who is in judicial custory now, will be produced in court on July 14.

The media release today said the district magistrate welcomed the decision taken by the GTA.

“He said this decision would prevent the project of the statutory body being executed in conflict with law of the land and in gross violation of the rights of some SC & ST public of Darjeeling. The District Magistrate assured of all the assistance for the development project being undertaken in a rightful and legal manner,” the release read.

The GTA had earlier said that the nine landlosers had given them their written consent in 2012 for use of their plots for the project.