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Cash offer to land protesters

Rs 20,000 pill in Birbhum

Snehamoy Chakraborty   |   Published 04.02.17, 12:00 AM

Bolpur, Feb. 3: The Bengal administration has offered an additional Rs 20,000 a bigha to landlosers to subdue an agitation in Birbhum demanding industry on land acquired 15 years ago.

Farmers in Shibpur, 3km from Bolpur, have stopped work on chief minister Mamata Banerjee's Gitabitan project, under which a "smart city" and a Visva-Bharati-like university are being built, demanding that the land be used for industry, for which 300 acres were acquired in 2002.

Sources said the government had offered the additional cash because it wanted to avoid a Bhangar-like situation, where it was forced to relocate a power substation project following protests over forcible land acquisition, and also because Gitabitan is a pet project of the chief minister.

The Shibpur villagers said the government's offer was "too little, too late" and alleged that the amount was "nothing but the difference between the actual market price of the land during acquisition and the price that was paid" to them. The villagers claimed that they were given Rs 48,000 in 2002 although the then going rate was Rs 68,000.

Sources in the land and land reforms department said that according to the rule, the government cannot announce incentives for land that has already been acquired.

"If the local panchayat has announced an incentive for the landlosers in Shibpur, it has to be a grant-in-aid," an official said.

"Protests against earlier acquisitions are taking place in many places in Bengal. If the government pays grant-in-aid to landlosers at one place, the others will also raise such demands," the official said.

Today, a team from the panchayat department made announcements in the area that each landloser would get Rs 20,000 a bigha from the panchayat office on February 9.

Pritikona Das, the Trinamul pradhan of the Raipur Supur gram panchayat, said: "We have made the announcement after speaking to our senior leaders and officials."

The landlosers said they had given their land hoping they would get jobs in the industrial units that would come up. Asked about the extra money being offered, Sheikh Hasibuddin, one of the protesters, said: "This is nothing but a ploy by Trinamul and its government to stop our movement."

A case was filed in Calcutta High Court today by 21 landlosers challenging the government's decision to set up the university and the smart city on land acquired for industry.

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