Kolkata: Just 30km from Nandigram, where violent local protests over a proposed industrial hub grabbed national attention recently, the Bengal Shipyard Ltd plans to compensate displaced residents with homes and jobs to gain control over 500 acres of land, and would thus not likely to face resistance, said a district official.
The proposed shipbuilding yard, a 50:50 joint venture between Mumbai-based Bharati Shipyard Ltd and Kolkata-based Apeejay Group, would displace some 1,800 families, including 150 families which would lose their homes.
The compensation plan, believed to be the first of its kind, would ensure acquiring land is not too difficult, the district official said, declining to be named. The government will acquire the land through the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, and it has issued a notification last month to that effect.
Mint could not independently verify the claim nor gauge it reception among area residents at Geonkhali in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, where the yard will be built.
Bengal Shipyard has offered to resettle those surrendering homestead land for the project in a residential colony. Even encroachers, who have built illegal homes, would find a place in the colony. If a family chooses to move, it would also receive cash compensation.
For others who would lose farmland, the company has promised at least one job to a family. The shipbuilding yard, which is estimated to cost around Rs2,000 crore to build, is likely to create 7,000 direct and 20,000 indirect jobs.
This initiative is an instance of companies innovating in West Bengal to win over people who would lose land due to industrialization.
Bengal Shipyard will pay to train displaced farmers at schools in Haldia, a nearby town; and while they are being trained, the company will offer a monthly stipend. It is also considering monthly cash support to the elderly and the physically challenged.
“We are going to conduct a socio-economic survey at the project site to understand the specific needs of the people and the kind of cash support they need while they train,” said Sourav Daspatnaik, chief executive officer of Bengal Shipyard and a director of Apeejay Group. The study, which is about to begin, will be completed in about two months.
About 70% of the farmland the company has identified yields two crops. The rest is barren or yields a single harvest in a year. The government is expected to offer Rs9-11.5 lakh per acre, depending on productivity, which is based on a formula laid down in the 1894 Act. “Apart from the cash compensation, which will be decided by the government, we’re preparing a comprehensive package, which should address the needs of almost everyone there,” Daspatnaik said. “I think acquiring land shouldn’t be a problem.”
Last year, the West Bengal government’s decision to allow the Indonesia-based Salim Group to set up a chemical hub at Nandigram led to violent mass protest that left 14 people dead. Against the backdrop of similar resistance across India over special economic zones, many such proposals have been put on hold.
In Geonkhali, too, residents initially opposed the project and formed a resistance group led by the Trinamool Congress, the state’s principal opposition party. But now the company has launched an aggressive campaign to win their confidence. It has distributed leaflets to make people aware of the project and the compensation package that it seeks to offer. “People are now favourably inclined towards the project,” Daspatnaik said.