The “development” process in West Bengal is taking place in a two stage mechanism - conversion of agricultural land into industrial land, and conversion of industrial land into real estate. Land acquisition in Dankuni clearly demonstrates how the aim of the “development” process is really the extraction of maximum profits by private enities from resources, in this case, land. Real estate provides the maximum profit, therefore functioning factories in Dankuni are being shut down to acquire land for a housing project by the powerful DLF group.
Workers and Peasants Unitedly Resist Land Acquisition for Housing Project in Dankuni
January 30, 2008.
Preparations are underway in Dankuni in Hooghly district, West Bengal, for a movement on the lines of Nandigram, against the government’s decision to convert large tracts of industrial and agricultural land into real estate for the DLF housing project.
The Land Protection Committee and Gano-Unnanayan o Jana-Adhikar Manch are holding meetings in the villages. On 30th January, in a meeting convened by the Manch at Dankuni Brigade grounds, there was participation by SUCI, Kisan Majdur Congress together with BUPC members from Nandigram. Around 10,000 workers of 121 large, medium and small scale industries have joined hands with 32,000 farmers of the area to save their means of livelihood. Ali Afjal Chand of Dankuni Industrial Growth Centre and Bachhu Ghosh of Gano-Unnanayan o Jana-Adhikar Manch are working together with the local land protection committees. Hooghly district’s Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind has also joined forces with them.
In a survey of the area it has been found that around 10,000 workers would have to be evicted from around 190 factories, which includes a firm belonging to Chandan Basu, the son of the ex-chief minister Jyoti Basu. The only plants that would be exempted are the ones belonging to Coca Cola, Coal India, Steel Authority of India and B.D. Centenary Polymers. Joint-secretary of the Gano-Unnanayan o Jana-Adhikar Manch, Kaji Saifuddin, has stated that 4069 acres of land present in the 20 moujas of Dankuni would be acquired for the proposed housing project. The proposed area includes Danbatipur, Dankuni, Dankuni Beel, Gobra, Chakundi, Noiti, Panchghora, Mollaber, Bhadua, Jaikrishnapur, Begampur, Bankagacha and Chikran moujas. Besides these, there are plans to include nine moujas of Srirampur block and 20 moujas of Singur block.
The proposed housing project covers areas of fertile three-crop agricultural land in 40 villages besides the industries. Together with this there are temples, mosques, burning ghats, cemeteries, idgahs, anganwadi centres, shops and markets, primary and junior high schools. The local population includes 12,000 Muslims and 17,000 Scheduled Castes/Tribes and 3000 others. The Land Protection Committees state that 95% of the people of the area not ready to part with their land. They have clearly stated in the meeting convened by the district magistrate that they would not give up their land under any condition.
The Durgapur Express highway passes through the proposed housing area. It is bounded on one side by the Burdwan cord railway line and the Delhi road on the other. People of the area have been disturbed ever since the land acquisition process began in the area for the proposed housing project. Ali Afjal Chand of the Dankuni Industrial Growth Centre claims that attempts to forcibly acquire land would give rise to a Nandigram-like situation. He further claimed that in order to enable the process of eviction, the state government has been dumping waste material from Rishra township into the sewage and irrigation canals of the area. In this way the Saraswati river, Bamihati canal and Dankuni canal are being deliberately destroyed. This, in spite of the fact that all the land in the area is shown as agricultural land in the records of the land reforms department.
He stated that the people of the area are getting ready to resist this attempt of the state government to act as contractors for converting agricultural and industrial land into a huge housing project by the DLF group.
This news item appeared in the Dainik Statesman. It has been translated, with commentary, by Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati.