'Unwilling' landowners to rev up stir; demand plots back

© Provided by The Statesman ‘Unwilling’ landowners to rev up stir; demand plots back

Members of the Porajhar Kawakhali Bhumi Raksha Committee (PKBRC) have planned to renew their demand for the state government to return their plots of land that had been acquired during the Left Front regime in the state.

The committee of landowners has taken such a decision even though state Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya has given them a new proposal in this regard. Ms Bhattacharya, during her visit to the Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) here recently, had said that the state government would provide alternative plots of land to a group of agitators if they withdraw their case from the High Court.

Notably, the state government had to return plots of land, which were acquired during the Left regime, among 52 unwilling landowners at Kawakhali here a few years ago. However, another group of “unwilling” landowners have been demanding that the state return their plots.

A Siliguri-based legal practitioner, Akhil Biswas, who is leading the “unwilling” landowners here, said that they may reconsider the Urban Minister’s proposal if it is given to them in writing.

“Not only that. the state will have to mention in detail the system to return the land, which have been acquired from the unwilling landowners, and when it will return, a definite time period, after a written proposal to withdraw the cases,” Mr Biswas said today. They had also planned to draw the attention of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when she was scheduled to visit Siliguri in the first week of September this year.

Notably, she postponed her trip after the announcement of the by-polls for the Bhowanipur Assembly Segment, where the CM is will be contesting. Miss Banerjee had announced that a ‘Film City’ would be set up at the said land at Kawakhali. Later, the state allowed a promoter to build a township project on a large plot of land there, which was under the SJDA.

Miss Banerjee had even sought clarifications from the then chairman of the SJDA, Binay Chandra Barman, the former Jalpaiguri MP, for his alleged non-cooperation with the promoting agency for setting up the project named Uthsodhaara Teesta. Later, Mr Barman was removed from his post in the SJDA.

Mithu Mallick, the son of an “unwilling” landowner, 64- year-old Gobindo Mallick, said: “We will continue our movement against the ongoing project on our land. Had the state set up a project for public interest, we would have allowed it to use it after acquisition. But the promoting agency is selling the land to others at huge rates for the housing colony. We will start agitating shortly.”

On 16 August 2021, on behalf of Gobindo Mallick, an advocate, A Halder, has emailed an appeal to the SJDA chairman, demanding release of the land in same measurement and of the same nature in the same locality where the land was acquired by the SJDA.

Like Gobindo Mallick, the owner of land comprising one acre (plot No 50 and 63/139 in Khatian No 278/10, Sheet No 16, Mouja Dabgram in Jalpaiguri), there are over two dozen “unwilling” landowners, who have been protesting against the ongoing housing project on their land, and demanding a compensation package as the SJDA promised them during the acquisition.

“We have not yet disturbed the ongoing project work. But if the SJDA does not respond to us soon, we will start a do or die movement here. There are three types of agitators here, and all had to go on a fast-unto-death. Though the SJDA has assured us about doing the needful, nothing has been done.

Interestingly, the promoting agency has settled the deal in the West Bengal Housing Industry Regulatory Authority by making false statements, when serious cases are pending in the High Court,” Mr Biswas claimed.

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