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Bengal land woes send power project to Bihar

Power Grid didn’t get 65 acres at Karandighi though it gave Rs 15 crore for farmers’ compensation

Land acquisition woes have led to the exit of one more project from West Bengal. Last time,Tata Motors’ decision to shift its Nano factory from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat was Narendra Modi’s gain. This time,the decision of Power Grid Corporation of India to shift its power transmission project from Karandighi to just 50 km away in neighbouring Bihar’s Kishanganj is Nitish Kumar’s gain.

Mamata Banerjee’s opposition to forcible acquisition of land is costing the state dear as major firms are moving out. Farmers are demanding high land prices and resorting to agitation,but the government is not willing to intervene.

Power Grid,a central PSU engaged in inter-state transmission of electricity,failed to get 65 acres at Karandighi even after it gave Rs 15 crore to the state for disbursement among farmers from whom land would be acquired. Of the Rs 15 crore,Rs 2.5 crore have already been distributed for about 15 acres of land. But then,land acquisition hit a roadblock with farmers demanding more money for their land,which led the PSU to shift the project to Kishanganj in Bihar at the fag end of last year.

Now,the officials of the corporation are knocking the doors of Mamata Banerjee government demanding Rs 2.5 crore. But the officials of the Land and Land Reforms Department of the state government don’t know how to retrieve the distributed money from the farmers. “Around 50 families of farmers have received the money and they might have wined and dined with the money. The officials of Power Grid earlier wanted Rs 12.5 crore out of Rs 15 crore that they gave us. We thought the matter was over. But now they have come to us demanding the remaining Rs 2.5 crore,and we don’t know how to retrieve the money,’’ an official of the land department told The Indian Express.

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It was in early 2011 that the PSU approached the state government with the request for land at Karandighi to set up a sub-station. The state government pegged the land price at Rs 19 lakh per acre and the company gave Rs 15 crore for disbursement among the farmers. The formal process of acquiring land (declaring award etc) was complete in the mid-2012 and compensation at the existing rate (current market price of the land and 30 per cent solatium of the market rate) was declared. By May 2012,the state government started paying money and Rs 2.5 crore was distributed among some farmers who gave up the possession of their land.

But trouble started by August when a section of farmers set up a Bhumi Ucched Birodhi (anti-land acquisition) committee and demanded more compensation for the land. The land acquisition process was stalled. After all the efforts by the officials to win back the farmers fell through,Power Grid decided to quit.

First published on: 01-06-2013 at 02:49:38 am
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