Even as the dust on Singur is yet to settle, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has run into a group of angry protesters who want compensation to vacate land in Kolkata’s southern fringes.
With the land’s present market value stated to be around Rs 4,300 crore, the protesters are demanding suitable relocation, leaving the “pro-people” state government in a fix.
The trouble over the 145-acre plot, which raised its head in the last 48 hours, is being led by around 350 women who claim to be living there for the past three decades. The land, which has faced its own share of legal disputes, belonged to the estate of a landlord, but it was vested by the state government after the zamindari system was abolished in 1954.
The original owners challenged the government’s move in the 1970s, winning the case at a single bench of the Calcutta High Court.
While the landlords sold the land to a realtor group even before the government could challenge the verdict, a division bench of the high court ruled in favour of the state in March this year. Over the years, however, squatters filled up the land with farming plots, fishery ponds, tenements and a football ground. Trouble started after state land reforms department officials started installing peg markers on Thursday to stake claim.
In protest, local residents, who refused to be identified as illegal occupiers, formed a human chain and stopped the government employees.
Nirmala Bodhak, who led the protest, said: “This is our land and we’ll do everything to protect our claim. We’ll leave only after the government offers suitable compensation and relocation.”