Talks between the South 24 Parganas administration and Bhangar protesters on Friday over the “lack of progress” in development work promised by the state government yielded no results. With the participants unable to arrive at a final deadline for the completion of the projects, the next meeting has been scheduled for December 31.
The meeting was called after protesters stopped the construction of a power sub-station in the area on Thursday, alleging “unfulfilled promises” by the administration and the Power Grid Corporation of India. Those present included Assistant Superintendent of Police Saikat Ghosh, Circle Inspector Sougata Roy, Office-in-charge Biswajit Ghosh, BDO Koushik Kumar Maity, Power Grid Corporation of India officials, Bhangar residents and members of the Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee.
“The meeting wasn’t that fruitful. It was long and we discussed each point elaborately, but they couldn’t give us a single deadline for the development projects and said they have to discuss it with higher authorities. It would have been better if they had also asked all the decision-makers to attend,” said Mirza Hasan, joint secretary of the Committee.
However, administration sources said basic work such as setting up street lights and repairing roads is likely to be initiated before December 31.
“As Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was heard saying she wants to complete the Bhangar project by January, we genuinely feel that should be the deadline. But they must remember that they cannot complete the project and leave all other commitments. As per the agreement, development works in the area has to go side by side with the power grid project so the deadline should also be the same for all other development work,” said Hasan.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during an administrative meeting on Thursday, had asked officials to hasten the construction work. The project had been halted in early 2017 after a series of protests and violent incidents. It resumed in August after local residents and government reached a written agreement to the effect that construction could continue as long as the state government carried out specified development work in Bhangar. The agreement included promises regarding the construction of a cold storage unit, upgradation of the local health centre to a block hospital, desiltation of a river and installation of streetlights.
“We hope their intention is good and that these promises were not just made to withdraw all agitation in the past,” said Hasan.
In response, government sources said administrative officials had assured protesters that the promised work will be completed as soon as possible. “All work will be done as per the agreement, the process is already on,” said a government official. The District Magistrate and senior officials of the state power department will represent the state government in the December 31 meeting.