Monday, October 27, 2008

Price up, land cheques taken

Price up, land cheques taken

Durgapur, Oct. 26: Landlosers whose plots have been acquired for the IISCO steel plant collected their cheques after two years of agitation that compelled the government to raise the compensation.

All 226 residents of Purushottampur mouza in Burdwan collected their cheques from the government today.

Work on the IISCO steel plant’s expansion was held up after the residents of Purushottampur protested that the compensation offered to them was lower than that given to landlosers of two other mouzas.

In total, 305 acres of non-agriculture land was earmarked for the IISCO plant.

Land was to be acquired in the mouzas of Hirapur (45 acres), Nakrasota (16 acres) and Purushottampur (244 acres). Hirapur and Nakrasota landlosers were granted compensation at the rate of Rs 8.5 lakh-Rs 12.5 lakh an acre.

But the landlosers in Purushottampur were told they would get between Rs 6.5 lakh and Rs 8.5 lakh as the area was situated away from the Burnpur-New Town Road. The other two were near the road.

The villagers formed a landlosers’ committee, like in Singur and Nandigram, and fought the police and steel plant officials when they went to take possession of the land in June 17 last year. In all, 126 protesters were arrested after the clash.

The Purushottampur residents demanded a revised package to match the other mouzas as well as a job for a member for each family at the plant.

But IISCO had already paid the government Rs 40 crore for the 305 acres in September 2006 and the administration had started distributing compensation cheques to the villagers of Hirapur and Nakrasota the same month.

The 226 landlosers of Purushottampur, however, did not collect the cheques. They moved the Burdwan district court, which said in a ruling in August that the people of Purushottampur should get equal compensation.

Today, Asim Bhattacharya, additional district magistrate (land acquisition), said: “We are following the court order. Around 215 villagers have accepted the cheques. No one has refused to take the cheques this time.”

The government, however, has not promised jobs.

Secretary of the Purushottampur Landlosers’ Committee, Lakshman Roy, said the residents had won the battle. “We are happy we will get more compensation for our land, but we will continue our agitation for a permanent job at the plant for each landloser’s family,” said Roy.

IISCO had marked out the 305 acres, near its plant in Burnpur, for acquisition through the state government in 1989. But the company did not start the expansion because of a funds crunch. In 2006, the Prime Minister announced a Rs 10,000-crore package with 2009 as the deadline. The project sprang back to life.