Thursday, January 8, 2009

Farmers set to lose land for the Andal aerotropolis demand better compensation

Durgapur, Jan. 6: Villagers set to lose land for the Andal aerotropolis project today formed a farmers’ committee that demanded developed plots in the project site measuring half the area of the land given up by each holder.

That would mean a farmer giving up two cottahs would have to be given one cottah in the airport city area with all facilities like roads, electricity and water supply.

Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited, which is handling the project, had offered the farmers between Rs 7.5 lakh and Rs 11.24 lakh an acre depending on the fertility and location of the plot. The farmers were also to get a cottah inside the project area for every bigha acquired (20 cottahs make a bigha). But there was a ceiling on the land-for-land offer: no farmer would get more than six cottahs.

The new demand — of more land in the project area — came after the farmers from 12 mouzas formed the Krishi Jomi Jiban Jibika Raksha Committee, at the helm of which is the Trinamul Congress. The SUCI and Naxalite outfits are believed to be involved as well.

“We welcome the project but we want half of our lost land in developed condition in the project area. The project promoter, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited, has offered us one cottah against every bigha acquired but we don’t accept it,” said Kalobaran Mondal, the committee president and a former Trinamul president of Andal block.

Mondal, 54, a transporter, owns around 20 acres of single-crop land in Tamla, identified for acquisition.

“We will meet the Burdwan district magistrate tomorrow and place our new demand before him,” said Susanta Dutta, a spokesperson of the outfit.

On December 24 last year, the villagers had demanded direct talks with Bengal Aerotropolis and demanded jobs and shares as promised by the Jindals in Salboni.

The committee will also place its demand for direct talks with the developers.

Singapore’s Changi Airport International is said to have picked up a 26 per cent stake in the project. The final deal has not been signed, though.

The farmers are not the only bother for the project’s developers. Coal India objected to the project saying the site would block mining. The state government has written to the civil aviation ministry denying the allegation.

The Rs 10,000-crore aerotropolis needs 3,500 acres. Most of the land in the area is either single-crop or barren.

Burdwan, Jan. 11: Over 900 land holders have refused to part with their plots for the Andal aerotropolis in Burdwan.

Sources in the district land acquisition collectorate said objections from 929 villagers from eight mouzas in Andal block have been received in two lots since last Wednesday, though Burdwan district magistrate Manish Jain claimed the papers “hadn’t reached his office”.

The government issued a notification for land acquisition on December 11 last year. The notification, for the first phase of the Rs 10,000-crore project, was for the acquisition of 2,364 acres spread over the eight mouzas. In all, 3,500 acres would be required. Most of the land in the area is single-crop or barren.

But villagers allege the administration had not spoken to them before putting up the notice. Raju Roy, who filed an objection on his one-acre plot, said he wasn’t against the project but insisted the government should have spoken to him first.

“The government has fixed the price of my land after consulting political parties, not me. Why should someone else decide the price of my plot? It is unjustified. I want to talk directly to the project promoter,” said Roy, who is a Trinamul panchayat member in Andal.

Ananda Prasad Layek, who owns 3.18 acres in Bhadur mouza, said: “The project is being built by a private company which can speak to us and settle the compensation. Why is the government coming between? I will not sell at less than Rs 18 lakh per acre.”

The government has offered Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 11.24 lakh an acre, depending on the plot’s fertility and location.

The compensation package, which offered a land-for-land scheme for the first time other than cash, vocational training and other reimbursements to 19,000 villagers, was accepted by all major political parties, except Trinamul, which did not attend any of the 19 all-party meetings.

The objections came after a demand by a farmers’ committee last Tuesday for developed plots inside the project area measuring half the area of land given up by each holder.

Trinamul, though, seems to have distanced itself from the farmers’ attempts to get higher compensation. State party president Subrata Bakshi said: “We are not part of any agitation where farmers have agreed to give up land but are agitating for higher prices.”