Monday, 30th October 2017

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Land price standoff in Birbhum coal project

The DVC has proposed a price of Rs 14 lakh per acre to purchase 3,600 acres

  • Published 11.10.19, 1:53 AM
  • Updated 11.10.19, 1:53 AM
  • 2 mins read
The central public sector undertaking needs around 3,600 acres to set up the open-cast coalmine in Loba Shutterstock

Fresh trouble is brewing over land for a mega coalmine project at Loba in Birbhum as the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) has proposed a price of Rs 14 lakh per acre to purchase 3,600 acres, an offer unacceptable to land-losers who say the rate is less a third of the market price in the area.

The central public sector undertaking needs around 3,600 acres to set up the open-cast coalmine in Loba.

Although the groundwork for the project started in 2009, a pause button had to be pressed in 2012 following a violent movement by the land-losers.

With the state government showing keen interest in the project but stressing that DVC must directly purchase land from the owners, talks started again — under the aegis of the district administration — in 2017 and the area was surveyed for an assessment of the land ownership pattern.

“Several meetings were held in the past few years. At a meeting attended by the land-losers, DVC and state officials on September 30, a rehabilitation package was discussed where the central company proposed a price of Rs 14 lakh per acre. The problems then started afresh,” said a district official.

Those representing farmers at the meet protested and said the price was no way near market rates. “We have documents to prove land parcels in the area have been sold recently at Rs 50 to 60 lakh per acre. Why should we accept a price of Rs 14 lakh per acre?” asked Joydip Majumder, secretary of the Loba Krishi Jami Raksha Committee that has been leading the protests.

According to Majumder, the DVC’s proposal undermines the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which Parliament passed to regulate land acquisition, compensation and rehabilitation across the country.

As the Mamata Banerjee government is opposed to forcible acquisitions, it had suggested that the DVC buy land directly from the owners at a price acceptable to them. “The central act says a land-loser will get two to four times the market price in a rural area and at least twice the market rate in an urban zone. Look at the price the DVC is offering us,” said Majumder.

Following the September 30 meeting, the Loba Krishi Jami Raksha Committee has held meetings with the land-losers — the survey suggests there are around 4,000 of them.

A senior DVC official said it was “irrational” to expect market prices as the company was buying land in bulk.

“The farmers are referring to rates where someone bought only 0.4 acres. It can’t be compared when a company will go for bulk purchase of 3,600 acres. We have said in the meeting that the bargaining may continue but we are not ready to match the price that someone may have got for a small piece of land,” said the official who had attended the September 30 meet in Suri.

An economist questioned the logic. “For industrial purposes, the buyers purchase land in bulk but that doesn’t mean the owners would settle for less than the market price. The DVC must realise around 4,000 land-losers would sell their land… How can they expect that poor farmers would compromise on the price of their land to allow DVC to enjoy the benefits of economies of scale?” asked the economist.

A DVC official said they had started with the lower rate to give space for bargaining but the price can’t be Rs 60 lakh per acre. “We have proposed a lower price as we know the farmers will bargain. But it is impossible to give Rs 50-60 lakh per acre. Let’s see what happens,” the official added.