The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nitish to tread soft on industry path

Patna, April 9: Wary of the bloodspill in the battle for land acquisition at Nandigram in neighbouring Bengal, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has clarified that the government will not forcibly acquire land for industrial development.

“The government will not repeat a Nandigram in Bihar by forcibly acquiring the land for industrial development. The industries will come up only on plots, which the people will give on their own will and volition,” the chief minister said. His clarification follows a Patna High Court order on Friday directing the state “not to use force to displace the landowners” for setting up industries.

The order, which came in response to a PIL filed by the farmers’ union against the railway’s move to acquire land for a wagon repairing workshop, also effectively shattered railway minister Lalu Prasad’s “dream project” after the court also issued notice to the railway authorities to clarify the process to be adopted for land acquisition.

Lalu Prasad, who represents Chhapra in the Lok Sabha had announced the setting up of a wagon repairing workshop soon after becoming the railway minister. Over 100 acres of mostly-fertile agricultural land was identified for the purpose in 2005.

The petition in the court claims that the land belongs to Ismailchak, Govindpur, Chakapsaid and Chitranjanpur villages under Sonepur block and the villagers who have formed Bhumi Bachao Kisan Sangharsh Samiti to fight the acquisition process are fighting tooth and nail against the railway move to take away their land.

In fact, the high court’s order, coupled with the turmoil triggered by the police firing in Bengal that left 14 people dead, is stated to be the reason behind the chief minister “lowering his pitch” on land acquisition for industrialisation.

“The problem of unemployment can be taken care of only through industrialisation. But the government will not use coercive methods for acquisition of land. After all, the government is just the manifestation of the wishes of the people and lives for the cause of the people,” Nitish Kumar said.

In fact, what seems to have compelled the chief minister, who earned accolades from the Tatas and many other global industrial houses at the outset for promising them “land and atmosphere for investment”, is the fact that his government’s amended land acquisition policy, too, has failed to break the ice with farmers.

The amended land acquisition and rehabilitation policy in February envisaged the payment of 50 per cent more than the government price, besides 30 to 60 per cent of compensation, to the landowners giving away their lands for industrialisation.

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