Singur replay threat in Katwa

Durgapur, Sept. 9 2008: Farmers protesting land acquisition plans for a power plant in Katwa today warned of a backlash like the ones in Singur and Nandigram if the government resorted to forcible takeovers.

The Krishi Jomi Krishak Khetmajur Raksha Committee, which is leading the protests, held a meeting this morning in Katwa, 180km from Calcutta, and iterated its stand against forced acquisitions.

“If the government tries to acquire land forcibly, it will face a situation like Singur and Nandigram,” said Debaprasad Chatterjee, a joint secretary of the committee. He owns about 1.3 acres in Koshigram, one of the villages identified for the acquisition.

The 1,320MW thermal plant will require 1,033 acres, of which 350 acres are to be taken over during the first phase.

Today’s warning comes after an August 27 “all-party meeting”, chaired by Burdwan district magistrate Manish Jain, unanimously accepted a compensation package.

The Trinamul and the SUCI had boycotted the talks.

CPM, CPI, RSP, Forward Bloc, Congress and BJP leaders who attended the meeting had agreed to convince the 4,600 villagers whose land had been marked for the project to accept the government’s compensation package.

It offers between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 11 lakh an acre, depending on the plots’ proximity to the main road.

The committee, which has supporters of all Opposition parties including the ones present at the all-party meeting, made it clear today that it had nothing to do with what was decided at the talks.

“We are not concerned about what the politicians are saying. Do the leaders who attended the August 27 meeting own any land in the area identified for acquisition?” asked Chatterjee.

Rabindranath Roy, the committee’s secretary who owns two acres in Koshigram, said the 350 acres to be acquired in the first phase belonged to 403 farmers. “I’m one of them and we will make a submission to the subdivisional officer and the West Bengal Power Development Corporation (which is building the plant) on September 15 saying we don’t want to give up our land.”

All the 403 farmers attended this morning’s meeting.

Prasanta Ghosh of Deb- kundu village, who owns 12 acres, said most of the land identified was multi-crop. “The land in Katwa is very fertile. We cultivate aman and boro crops besides mustard, potato and pulses.”

Tapan Ghosh, the joint secretary of the committee who owns 1.3 acres in Koshigram, echoed Prasanta. “We are watching the situation but are ready to resist forcible acquisition.”

District magistrate Jain said the committee had not informed him officially about its reluctance but hoped to cut through the resistance. “A public hearing will be held after September 20. We’ll hear the farmers. Till then I’m optimistic about the land acquisition.”