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Home, land damage cry for airport work

- 164 Sikkim families demand compensation & rehabilitation, AAI calls experts to probe

Gangtok, Aug. 11: Over 150 families in East Sikkim today demanded compensation and rehabilitation from the state government, alleging their homes and land had been damaged because of construction work for an airport in the area.

The 164 families today held a news conference under the banner of Pakyong Airport Affected Families Committee to put forward their demand.

“Houses and land belonging to around 164 families have developed cracks because of the use of heavy machinery at the construction site. The residents are being compelled to live in a deplorable state because there is seepage in the houses during monsoon and water enters the homes when it rains,” said the co-ordinator of the committee, Basant Gurung.

“We want the state to carry out an assessment of the damage and compensate the affected families. We want the government to rehabilitate those whose houses have been damaged completely,” he added.

The 164 families are from Karthok, Dikling, Bhanu Turning, Pushpanjali and Damlakha areas, all within a 5km radius of the construction site.

The greenfield airport at Pakyong, 25km from Gangtok, is being built by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) on a 200-acre plot. The cost of the project is over Rs 300 crore.

General manager of the AAI, S.P. Yadav, said it would be able to comment on the committee’s demands only after consulting experts. “We have called experts from the Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee, to carry out an investigation and find out if the houses have developed cracks because of the machines at the site. Construction is impossible without the use of heavy machines…. Until a team carries out a complete survey and submits a report, we won’t be able to say anything,” he said.

The construction began towards the end of 2009 and Yadav said it was likely to be over by mid-2015.

The official said the 17 families whose land had been taken for the project had been rehabilitated temporarily. “The families have been kept on rent and the AAI is paying Rs 10,000 a month for each of them. The state has claimed Rs 13.77crore as the total compensation amount (for the 17 families). The file is with the state and the AAI would clear the payment once the file is cleared,” Yadav said.