Fresh hurdle to widening of NH12
Widening of the 67km stretch of NH12 between Krishnagar and Baro Jagulia in Nadia, which kicked off a few days ago, has run into a rough patch after a section of owners of 1,500 shops and other makeshift structures refused to move out demanding better compensation.
Sources in the district administration said about 90 per cent of the owners had already accepted compensation for their plots and structures and were supposed to shift lock-stock-and-barrel by the first week of November.
“The last minute trouble can cast a shadow on the project. If the district authorities fail to hand over required land to the implementing agency within the stipulated time frame, the project, which had started in 2009, would be delayed further,” said a senior government official.
The agitating shop owners were demanding parity in compensation package as, they alleged, there was a disparity on part of the district authorities while announcing the amounts.
“Some were offered Rs 5 lakh per cottah and some were given Rs 3 lakh per cottah. It is a clear case of disparity as all plots are located along the same highway. The authorities did not follow standard criteria,” said a shop owner.
Shopowners in Phulia and Dignagar, located on the outskirts of Krishnagar, allegedly detained a car of the district authorities that was carrying out a campaign to clear the hurdles by the first week of November. In Dignagar, a group that fights for backward classes, “Anagrasar Jana Jagarani Manch,” also joined the agitation and confined a few government officials monitoring the land acquisition process.
In both the cases, police rescued the officials, but the developments have come as a fresh worry.
“Given the state government’s hands-off land policy, it is almost certain that no force would be applied to clear the plots. If the agitation continues, it would leave an impact on the widening of the highway,” said a source.
Land for the highway is being acquired under the National Highways Act, which follows the provisions of land acquisition act of 2013 that came to force from January 1, 2014.
Sources in the administration said that they had followed the provisions of the act carefully while fixing compensation for the land-losers.
“The compensation amount could differ as it is fixed on the basis of the character and location of the plots. But there was no large disparity in the process,” said a source.
Nadia district magistrate Vibhu Goel, who is monitoring the work to hand over the required land to the implementing agency, said: “Most of the land-losers have already accepted compensation. We have made it clear that they need to remove their structures at any cost before the deadline. If they fail, we will demolish the structures. They can appeal for any grievance, but cannot stop the project.”
NH12 connects Dalkhola in North Dinajpur with Calcutta airport.
The trouble over the widening project has caused a headache for the state government officials as it is considered to be a prestigious project for the state.
The National Highways Authority of India had kicked off the widening of NH12 in 2009, but it could not be started in the 84-km stretch between Barasat and Krishnagar because of non-availability of land.
The Bengal government had requested the NHAI to hand over the stretch to the state promising that it would be able to complete the project by convincing the landowners.
But the state government soon realised that taking up the project in a 17km stretch between Barasat and Baro Jagulia was easier said than done because of stiff resistance against acquisition of land.
“The state was convinced that the work could be undertaken in the 67km stretch between Krishnagar and Baro Jagulia in the first phase as there was no such problem over acquisition of land. If the state faces resistance here, there are reasons to believe that it would not be easy to implement the project,” said a senior government official.
As future of some other major projects like North South Corridor, which will connect NH6 in East Midnapore to NH 12 in Murshidabad, is critically dependent on availability of land, the government wants to settle this impasse as land-related protests have a tendency of racing from one place to another.
“Land would be required for future projects. If the state cannot proceed on NH12, fate of the future projects could be imagined easily,” said a source.