The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 26 , 2014
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Huts sprout in land package gambit

Tamluk, Feb. 25: The East Midnapore administration has been unable to acquire 17.7 acres that remain to be taken for a railway link to the proposed port at Haldia as villagers have built separate huts for family members and are demanding rehabilitation for each of them.

A survey carried out by railway enterprise RITES in 2011 had found only four to five huts on the land. But several studies conducted by the district administration over the years later said more than 100 structures had come up on the 17.7 acres.

A consortium of Calcutta-based Concast Group and Hyundai Engineering of South Korea is building a port at Haldia, about 10km north of the present dock. The project, which will primarily handle bulk cargo such as coal and iron ore, is expected to become operational in over two years.

Around 40 acres would be required to set up the 3km railway link. Apart from the 17.7 acres, the rest of the land has already been given by the Haldia Development Authority.

According to rules, if residential land is acquired for any project, the land-loser has to be provided with an alternative plot apart from compensation. “The villagers know this. So they have built separate huts for each of the family members and are now demanding rehabilitation for all. There were only four to five houses in 2011, now there are around 100,” a district official said.

The 50-odd families, who have their houses on the 17.7 acres, are also demanding compensation at the current market rate of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh an acre and jobs at the port complex.

“Officials of the land acquisition department went there for surveys at least 10 times. But the villagers protested every time and did not allow them to work,” the district official said. The last attempt to conduct a survey was made on January 15 this year.

Villagers admitted to have built separate huts for family members keeping in mind the possibility of rehabilitation and compensation.

Farmer Sheikh Abu Bakar, who owns 0.24 acres in Jhikurkhali, said: “When I heard that my land will be acquired, I constructed eight huts for eight of my children and registered the plots in their names. So now if the land is taken, all my children will have to be given alternative residential plots.”

Asked about the hurdle, additional district magistrate Suman Howladar said: “We have sent a proposal for acquisition of the land to the state government. We are trying to solve the problem through negotiation.”