Sunday, September 21, 2008

Land acqusition in Katwa

Singur replay threat in Katwa

Durgapur, Sept. 9: Farmers protesting land acquisition plans for a power plant in Katwa today warned of a backlash like the ones in Singur and Nandigram if the government resorted to forcible takeovers.

The Krishi Jomi Krishak Khetmajur Raksha Committee, which is leading the protests, held a meeting this morning in Katwa, 180km from Calcutta, and iterated its stand against forced acquisitions.

“If the government tries to acquire land forcibly, it will face a situation like Singur and Nandigram,” said Debaprasad Chatterjee, a joint secretary of the committee. He owns about 1.3 acres in Koshigram, one of the villages identified for the acquisition.

The 1,320MW thermal plant will require 1,033 acres, of which 350 acres are to be taken over during the first phase.

Today’s warning comes after an August 27 “all-party meeting”, chaired by Burdwan district magistrate Manish Jain, unanimously accepted a compensation package.

The Trinamul and the SUCI had boycotted the talks.

CPM, CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc, Congress and BJP leaders who attended the meeting had agreed to convince the 4,600 villagers whose land had been marked for the project to accept the government’s compensation package.

It offers between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 11 lakh an acre, depending on the plots’ proximity to the main road.

The committee, which has supporters of all Opposition parties including the ones present at the all-party meeting, made it clear today that it had nothing to do with what was decided at the talks.

“We are not concerned about what the politicians are saying. Do the leaders who attended the August 27 meeting own any land in the area identified for acquisition?” asked Chatterjee.

Rabindranath Roy, the committee’s secretary who owns two acres in Koshigram, said the 350 acres to be acquired in the first phase belonged to 403 farmers. “I’m one of them and we will make a submission to the subdivisional officer and the West Bengal Power Development Corporation (which is building the plant) on September 15 saying we don’t want to give up our land.”

All the 403 farmers attended this morning’s meeting.

Prasanta Ghosh of Deb- kundu village, who owns 12 acres, said most of the land identified was multi-crop. “The land in Katwa is very fertile. We cultivate aman and boro crops besides mustard, potato and pulses.”

Tapan Ghosh, the joint secretary of the committee who owns 1.3 acres in Koshigram, echoed Prasanta. “We are watching the situation but are ready to resist forcible acquisition.”

District magistrate Jain said the committee had not informed him officially about its reluctance but hoped to cut through the resistance. “A public hearing will be held after September 20. We’ll hear the farmers. Till then I’m optimistic about the land acquisition.”


Trinamul storms Katwa meet

Durgapur, Sept. 12: Trinamul Congress supporters today barged into an all-party meeting on land acquisition for a power plant in Katwa and demanded the project be shelved.

The group led by the party’s Burdwan chief, Azizul Mondal, submitted a memorandum to district magistrate Manish Jain saying the farmers wouldn’t give up their multi-crop land.

“We are not against the plant but acquisition of multi-crop land. We are behind the farmers and will not allow the government to acquire land forcibly,” said Mondal.

When he was requested to take part in the meeting, being held in the office of the Katwa SDO, Mondal insisted he only wanted to submit a memorandum, which Jain agreed to accept in the middle of the discussions.

The CPM, CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc, Congress and BJP leaders attended the talks, boycotted by Trinamul and the SUCI.

The district magistrate set up an advisory committee comprising two members from each party present at the meeting. Katwa SDO Y. Ratnakar Rao will head the panel.

The committee will try to convince the farmers, whose land has been identified for the project, to accept the government’s compensation.

The 1,320-MW plant will require 1,033 acres, belonging to 4,600 farmers. Of this, 350 acres are to be taken over in the first phase.

“The land will be acquired peacefully. I have requested Trinamul to co-operate for the sake of development,” Jain said after the 90-minute meeting.Some leaders who attended the meeting felt they had a tough job ahead.

The Krishi Jomi Krishak O Khetmajur Raksha Committee, which is leading the protests, had earlier this week warned of a backlash “like Singur and Nandigram” if the land was acquired forcibly.


Katwa farmers on warpath

Durgapur, Sept. 15: Nearly 3,000 farmers marched with their cows and ploughs to the Katwa sub-divisional office this morning, demanding that a proposed power project in the Burdwan town be shifted from their “fertile” land.

“We are not against the power plant or industry but it should be on barren land. We won’t give up our fertile multi-crop land. Why doesn’t the government expand its existing units?” said Rabindranath Roy, secretary of the Krishi Jomi Krishak Khetmajur Raksha Committee.

The committee joint secretary, Debaprasad Chatterjee, alleged that politicians were trying to force villagers to part with their plots. He was referring to a committee set up at an all-party meeting to convince villagers. The Trinamul Congress and the SUCI had boycotted the meet.

“Although we don’t want to identify ourselves with any party, we will ask Mamata Banerjee to sit on a dharna for us if necessary,” he said.

The farmers have submitted a memorandum to SDO Y. Ratnakar Rao.

The Burdwan administration has lined up hearings from September 22 to 25 for the acquisition of 350 acres in the first phase. The project requires 1,033 acres belonging to 4,600 farmers in 14 mouzas.

The administration had held hearings on July 30 and August 1 for the first phase, but 205 out of 250 farmers who attended had refused to part with their land.