Land return cry in Purulia, sale plan in Singur

Farmers seek industry plots

By PRANESH SARKAR AND BISWANATH ROY
  • Published 7.09.16
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Sept. 6: First Alisha, now Raghunathpur.

The post-Singur verdict demand for return of land today spread to Purulia's Raghunathpur, where around 3,000 farmers launched an agitation to get back 6,300 acres acquired from them for an industrial park that is yet to come up.

The Left government had acquired over 7,420 acres for the proposedRaghunathpur Steel and Allied Industrial Park between 2007 and 2010. Of this, various companies have taken possession of 2,915 acres.

The farmers today launched the agitation under the banner of the "apolitical" Natundihi Anchal Krishi Committee and submitted a memorandum to the local SDO.

Praneswar Ganguly, 48, the secretary of the committee, said: "We demand that our plots be returned, as the Supreme Court has ordered that the land acquired in Singur be handed back to its owners."

The Raghunathpur protest is similar to the one farmers in Burdwan's Alisha launched a day after the Singur verdict. The Alisha agitation prompted chief minister Mamata Banerjee to announce that a proposed sweetmeats hub would be relocated.

The Raghunathpur farmers threatened a "larger movement" if they do not get a response from the administration within 10 days. "If the SDO does not call us by that time, we will start a larger movement," Ganguly said.

He said around 75 per cent of the land was single-crop. Sources in the area said the farmers were keen to sell the plots if they got them back because the market rate had increased. Asked about this, Ganguly refused comment.

Purulia DM Tanmoy Chakraborty said: "I have heard about the memorandum. I will speak to my superiors about what line of action should be adopted."

A Nabanna official said the "fear" that more such protests would crop up after the decision to shift the proposed sweetmeats hub had "unfortunately" come true.

The movement in Raghunathpur is significant because both the Left government and the Trinamul dispensation had planned industrialisation in this part of Bengal because of the availability of government land.

The three companies that have bought space in the Raghunathpur park are Jai Balaji (1,455.02 acres), Adhunik Corporation (505.72 acres) and Shyam Steel (610 acres).

Although none of the projects has materialised so far because of a slump in the steel sector, commerce and industries department officials said they were hopeful that the companies would soon begin building factories on the land.

Sources in the industries department said land in several industrial parks across the state was lying vacant for the past few years. The government often invites investors to Bengal saying they would be offered land in these parks.

"That means there is vacant land in the industrial parks. If agitations such as the one in Raghunathpur spread, the chief minister's efforts to attract investments will be affected," an official said.

Besides the three steel companies, land in the Purulia park has been given to Reliance and Emami.

The chief minister had obtained the Centre's nod to bring Raghunathpur under the Amritsar-Delhi-Calcutta Industrial Corridor because of her plan to develop the Purulia block into a manufacturing hub.

"The chief minister had also announced special packages for prospective investors in Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore in 2013. We were hopeful that Raghunathpur would get the benefit of the scheme as land is readily available there," an official said.