Sunday, January 18, 2009

State purchasing land instead of acquiring land

State to buy plots from farmers

Calcutta, Jan. 11: The government has decided to purchase 50 acres in Bhangar directly from farmers to set up a state university for minorities, having learnt bitter lessons on land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram.

The government is stepping with caution on the land “purchase” also because Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress controls the zilla parishad of South 24-Parganas, were Bhangar is located.

“Our bitter experiences in Singur and Nandigram have compelled us to go for direct purchase of land from farmers for the proposed Aliah University. All of us know that circumstances have changed in the past few months,” land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said today.

He said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had agreed it would be “unwise” to acquire the land at this juncture. With the Lok Sabha election round the bend, the government would not like to anger the strong minority presence in Bhangar, barely 5km from Calcutta.

“Resistance would have come from land losers, backed by Trinamul, if we had gone for acquisition. Keeping this in mind, we are directly talking to farmers,” Mollah said.

The plan to build the state-run university for minorities was announced by the government in 2007 but since then it has had no luck in getting the land.

An internal report by the CPM’s South 24-Parganas unit has warned the government against acquiring land there. “We are not in a comfortable position in South 24-Parganas after we lost the panchayat polls. Also, Bhangar... is represented by a Trinamul legislator. We have sent the report to the state committee,” a district committee member said.

Arabul Haque, Trinamul MLA from Bhangar, said his party would not object if the land was bought straight from the farmers. “We are opposed to forcible acquisition. The move to buy land directly from farmers is welcome,” he said.

Asked about the price, a minority affairs department official said it would be finalised after talking to the farmers. “They told us they will part with the land if it is purchased from them,” he said.