Kolkata: The West Bengal government will invoke special provisions of the Land Acquisition Act to take over 700 acres at Dankuni near Kolkata, a stronghold of the state’s main opposition party, Trinamool Congress, to build a permanent base and training institute for the National Security Guard (NSG).
The special provisions would enable the state government to bypass time-consuming steps involved in land acquisition such as a public hearing, and seize possession of the land “within 15 days of issuing notices”; it typically takes at least a year to complete land acquisition.
“In the wake of the fast expanding Maoist movement in the state, we need to build a NSG hub in the state immediately,” said an official at the state’s land and land reforms department, who did not want to be named. “The special provisions (of the Land Acquisition Act) are being invoked to ensure there is no delay in getting control of the land.”
Under the special provisions, the state government can take possession of land even without completing payment for the acquisition.
After the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, the Centre had proposed to set up NSG hubs in all key metros such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai to reduce the time in countering such attacks. NSG is India’s premier anti-terrorism force.
Top NSG officials selected the Dankuni site, said Abdur Rezzak Mollah, West Bengal’s minister for land and land reforms. “They were shown at least two other sites, but they chose Dankuni,” Mollah said.
The state government had planned to develop a 4,840-acre integrated township at Dankuni, and real estate developer DLF Ltd had been selected through an auction to build it. But because of resistance from the local population, DLF decided to pull the plug on the project in May 2009.
To overcome resistance from locals, the state government has decided to pay at least three times the price it paid for acquiring land in Singur, which is barely 15km away.
The state government could pay up to Rs40 lakh for an acre in Dankuni, according to the land department official quoted earlier, and this is based on current market price of land there.
The proposed acquisition would come up for discussion at a meeting of the state cabinet soon, he added.
It is interesting that the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM-led state government of West Bengal is launching this land acquisition drive at a time when it faces the biggest political challenge in the state.
Elections to 81 civic bodies in 16 of the 19 districts in West Bengal are going to be held later this month, and the crucial assembly elections are due in the summer of 2011.
The Trinamool Congress’ opposition to farmland acquisition helped it stage a major comeback since the 2006 assembly elections, and it grabbed as many as 19 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the general election in 2009.
But a top CPM leader from Dankuni said the proposed land acquisition would help his party shore up support for itself in the area. Even the Trinamool Congress has been promising the people of Dankuni industrial projects such as the terminal of the proposed east-bound railway freight corridor.
“A lot of people in Dankuni had bought land in anticipation of the township project,” the CPM leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is at their request the state government has been considering various projects at Dankuni ever since DLF dropped the township.”
The state government isn’t looking to acquire much farmland for the NSG hub, said the land department official. “So there shouldn’t be much resistance from local people.”
The NSG project would also enable the state government to build civic infrastructure in Dankuni such as roads, processed water distribution system and sewer lines, which could later be used to develop other projects, according to Mollah.