Tuesday, June 19, 2007

People protest in Purushottampur, Asansol


Burdwan bristles, embers burn in Nandigram
- Men flee, women’s brigade battles on

Burnpur (Asansol), June 18: Most of the men have fled fearing arrest, but the women and children have stayed put.

A day after hundreds of villagers battled police, refusing to give up land acquired 18 years ago for the modernisation of the IISCO Steel Plant (ISP), the dust hasn’t settled in Purushottampur.

As news trickled in that the 126 villagers arrested yesterday have been denied bail, about hundred people, mostly women and children, defied prohibitory orders and gathered over the 240 acres earmarked for the project, shouting slogans.

There were few men as most have left the village, in Burdwan district’s Asansol sub-division, to avoid arrest.

The 200-odd policemen stationed in the trouble zone, about 260 km from Calcutta, were restrained as work started at the steel plant with the filling and levelling of land.

The administration has decided to revise the compensation for the Purushottampur land-losers if they submit applications. “We are ready to discuss additional compensation with villagers if they approach us. We have already fixed the rate of compensation at more than the market price and decided to pay them more,” Burdwan district magistrate Manish Jain said.

The Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority chairman, Bansagopal Chowdhury, said of the Rs 40 crore received from the steel plant for the land, Rs 37.30 crore had been earmarked for paying compensation to residents of Hirapur, Nagrasoda and Purushottampur.

“We have decided to distribute the remaining Rs 2.70 crore among the Purushottampur villagers who are demanding more,” the CPM MP said.

But the villagers declared that their movement would continue after the Asansol court today refused bail to those arrested for yesterday’s violence — 46 of them are women — and remanded them in a week’s jail custody.

“Let the police come and arrest us. Although many of our men have been arrested, we will continue our agitation and will not give up our land,” said 35-year-old Moyna Roy, whose husband Dipankar, a daily labourer, and son Shyamal are behind bars.

Along with Moyna stood Mira Roy, Niyati Roy and Kaberi Roy, whose husbands, too, were handcuffed yesterday.

The administration promised help to the steel plant authorities. They said work on the Purushottampur land was smooth today.

“We have already completed levelling the land in Hirapur and Nagrasoda and carried out our work peacefully in Purushottampur today. We expect to complete the primary part of the job by August,” said M.K. Rauth, the steel plant’s deputy general manager (administration).