Open to probe on land acquisition: Bengal minister

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

KOLKATA - Throwing a challenge to the opposition Trinamool Congress, West Bengal Housing Minister Gautam Deb Tuesday said he was ready for a probe by the prime minister’s office (PMO) in the alleged wrong doings in land acquisition at Rajarhat on the outskirts of the city.

“If the prime minister’s office holds investigation in the land acquisition issue then also I don’t have any problem. Let (Trinamool chief) Mamata Banerjee talk to the PMO. I am game,” said Deb while addressing reporters in Kolkata.

The state government arm, Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO), led by Deb acquired large tracts of land in the Rajarhat-Newtown area to set up a satellite township christened Jyoti Basu Nagar.

After Singur town and Nandigram village which witnessed protests earlier over land acquisition, Rajarhat on the northeastern fringes of the city is turning into a new political flash point on the issue.

Banerjee, who had spearheaded the land acquisition protests at Singur and Nandigram earlier, took out a large rally earlier this month that traversed some areas of Rajarhat.

She alleged that to develop the area into an industrial town, the state government had forcibly taken away 25,000-acre agricultural land from farmers, most of whom were religious minorities and backward classes.

She accused the state government of paying a meagre compensation to the landowners.

Deb said that the state government had paid much more than what the railways was paying farmers for their land acquired for its projects in the state.

Deb offered free land to Banerjee for developing the Metro.

“I am ready to offer free of cost land to Didimoni (Mamata Banerjee) for the Metro railway. And I will even give Rs.250 crore (about $50 million) from the HIDCO’s pocket to her for the Metro railway project,” said Deb.

“She has to spell out what her demand is. That itself is not clear,” he said.

IT major Infosys Technologies was given 50-acre plot at Rajarhat for setting up its campus, which is expected to provide employment to 15,000-20,000 people.

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