The 13 acres (circled) at Jamuni where prohibitory order was issued on Tuesday. File picture
Darjeeling, April 29: The Darjeeling district administration today imposed prohibitory orders on a 13-acre plot in Jamuni for two months following complaints from the owners of the land that the GTA Sabha chief executive Bimal Gurung had forcibly taken over their plots for tourism projects.
The nine families owning the 13 acres have alleged that they have not been given any compensation since 2012 when the land was taken over.
Asked about the alleged forcible acquisition, Dawa Lepcha, the GTA executive sabha member in charge of tourism, said: “This is an example of everything getting politicised in the hills. We were corresponding with the families. However, this was before the model code of conduct was enforced. At the moment, I cannot comment as I am unaware of the ground realities. I have not attended office because of the model code of conduct.”
The administration has clamped Section 144 of the CrPC — which disallows assembly of more than five persons — as the state government does not “promote or support land acquisition”, said district magistrate Puneet Yadav.
Nine persons from the families that lost the 13 acres have recently left the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and joined Trinamul.
Jamuni, about 20km from Darjeeling, is known to be Gurung’s favourite haunt and he has been trying to convert the place into a tourism spot since he was a DGHC councillor.
An artificial lake, a boating complex and three tourist huts have been set up in Jamuni. All these projects have come up on government land.
Yadav said: “We imposed Section 144 on 13 acres at Jamuni from today following complaints from nine families that their land was forcibly taken over and no compensation had been paid to them. Since the government does not promote or support land acquisition, we have imposed Section 144.”
Sources said the district magistrate had verified the complaints through the block land and land reforms office before issuing the prohibitory order. Even though the GTA had started using the 13 acres, mutation of the land was still in the name of the owners from these nine families, which technically means they still own the plots.
The GTA has been holding the annual krishi mela on the 13 acres of farmland since the plot was taken over. No tourism project has been launched on the land, which has been lying empty after the acquisition.
The disputed land is across the Chotta Rangit river, where the tourism department was planning to set up a water amusement park, garden and erect a statue of Lord Buddha.
Manilal Tamang, whose family owns about eight acres of land, said: “Our land was taken over in 2012 but no one has given us compensation. After the acquisition, Bimal daju once called us for a meeting around 5 in the evening and we were sent a message that we would be given Rs 1 lakh each as compensation. We didn’t go to the meeting as we didn’t find the ambience right.”
Tamang didn’t explain what he meant when he said “the ambience” was not right.
However, sources said the landlosers had faced threats from certain quarters because of their refusal to part with the plots. The nine families complained to the district magistrate about the land acquisition in February and they hadn’t taken up the matter with any authority before. Five of the families are related to Tamang.
The disputed plots are away from the homestead land of the nine families.
“There has been no talk on the price of our land ever since the GTA chief has taken over the plots forcibly. We haven’t been able to grow anything on the land for the past two years,” said Tamang.
Admitting that the landlosers were Trinamul members, Binny Sharma, the spokesman for hill Trinamul, said: “There is government land where development activities can be taken up. But we fail to understand why Bimal Gurung is hell bent on developing only Jamuni and not other places in Kalimpong and Kurseong.”