Monday, November 10, 2008

Compensation increased

Willing farmers pay a price

Durgapur, Nov. 9: More than 2,700 farmers in Burnpur’s Purushottampur have realised it doesn’t pay to be a willing land loser.

They had given up their land for the expansion of the IISCO Steel Plant without a murmur but ended up with less compensation than the 226 unwilling farmers who fought the acquisition for two years.

The 2,770 land losers are now claiming the additional money, which is between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 4 lakh per acre.

The government has earmarked 305 acres of non-farmland to be acquired in the mouzas of Hirapur, Nakrasota and Purushottampur. But residents of the first two mouzas were given a better package because of their proximity to the Burnpur-New Town Road.

Purushottampur’s 226 villagers, protesting against the “inadequate” compensation, formed a land losers’ committee, like in Singur and Nandigram, and moved court. The court ruled in their favour and directed the government to raise their compensation. The villagers collected their cheques on October 26.

The CPM had not lent support to these protesters but is backing the willing farmers’ demand. The party MLA from Hirapur, Amitava Mukherjee, has urged the administration to pay the increased compensation to the 2,770 land losers.

“Why should these people be deprived? They had accepted the compensation from the government without any agitation. Have they done anything wrong by co-operating with the administration? Everyone should get the same land price,” he said.

The land losers are hoping the administration will not let their “sacrifice” go in vain. “We have sacrificed our land but what are we getting now? Those who protested got more compensation. We want the same,” said Sadhan Roy.

Shishir Roy says he wants the matter settled without going to court. “The additional district magistrate has told us to move court but why should we spend money in courts? The administration should take moral responsibility and hand over the excess amount. If not, we will be compelled to move court. That will delay the IISCO expansion work.”

Additional district magistrate (land acquisition) Asim Bhattacharya said the local MLA had approached the administration with the farmers’ demand. “We paid increased compensation to 226 land losers following a court directive. If the rest of the villagers also want the increased price, they will have to come with the same court directive,” he said.

The IISCO Steel Plant had acquired the 305 acres through the government in 1989 but could not start work because of a funds crunch. The project sprang back to life in 2006 after the Prime Minister announced a Rs 10,000-crore package.