Centre sets 30-day deadline for NH12 land
The Centre has set a 30-day deadline for Bengal to hand over the rest of the “7 to 8 per cent” land to the National Highways Authority of India for a long-pending project to widen a 67km stretch of NH12 (erstwhile NH34) between Krishnagar and Baro Jaguli in Nadia, sources in the PWD have said.
Such a deadline to hand over land is unprecedented, a senior bureaucrat told this paper.
“The message from Delhi is clear... The future of the project will be uncertain if the land is not handed over in the next 30 days,” the official said.
The land issue came up during a review meeting of the NH12 widening project — which started in 2009 and is held up because of the state government’s inability to hand over required land — chaired by cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on Friday. State PWD secretary Naveen Prakash attended the virtual meeting.
PWD sources said the Centre expressed its displeasure at district authorities for failing to clear encroachments on a 3km-stretch where shops and places of worship stood.
“The Centre wants 100 per cent trouble-free land before starting work. Gurgaon-based KCC Buildcon Private Limited was hired for the Rs 1,113-crore project in October, 2019, but the letter of commencement hasn’t been given to it, without which it can’t start work,” said a senior PWD official.
Sources in the department said they had tried to convince the NHAI to start work as
over 90 per cent of land had been made available. “But it wants 100 per cent land free from encumbrances,” said a source.
A source said the Centre wanted the entire land because of a bitter past experience. “An agency was hired for the project… They deployed manpower and machinery and waited for four years to get land. Finally the contract with the agency had to be terminated, project cost shot up to Rs 1,113 crore from Rs 800-odd crore.”
An NHAI source said that as the new agency was given 30 months to finish the project, the Centre wanted work to start at the earliest as 10 months are already gone. The project includes a flyover, four road overbridges, seven footbridges and a toll plaza.
“It is time-consuming work, and some 10 months have passed since the project was awarded,” said an official.
Soutam Pal, director of the NH Project Implementation Unit in Krishnagar, admitted to the Centre’s pressure, but said there were religious structures and other buildings on acquired land and he was not sure when they would be cleared.
Nadia district magistrate Vibhu Goel said the NHAI’s concern was uncalled for. “Owners assured us of dismantling the structures whenever work resumes in the final phase.”
“They requested us to allow them to stay on their plots till work begins in the areas concerned. I don’t think that there is any reason to be concerned over such structures,” Goel said.
Sources in the district administration, however, said some structures could not be removed as the owners were not paid land acquisition compensation in the absence of a PAN card and documents to claim ownership.
“Arranging such documents have become difficult in the Covid-induced lockdown and overall situation,” an official said.
The member of an organisation in Dignagar, which owns a building that still exists on the stretch, said” “We did not receive compensation as we don’t have PAN card in our organisation’s name. We will dismantle the structure once we receive compensation.”