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Singur turns Bengal promoters generous
Pradeep Gooptu
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August 29, 2008 03:01 IST

The surprisingly strong opposition to land acquisition in Singur and earlier events at Nandigram, where local protests forced the government to scrap plans for a chemical hub, have induced investors keen on acquiring land in West Bengal to come up with compensation packages that can only be described as extravagant.

Today, Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Ltd, builder of the state's only private airport and related economic zone at Durgapur, 160 km from Kolkata, indicated it would pay Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh an acre for the 3,500-odd acres that it intends to acquire there along with attractive additional incentives like annuity to land losers for five years, training and jobs for one person per displaced family and alternative land up to a limit of 6 cottahs (1 cottah = 720 sq ft).

This is 25 to 30 per cent more than the current price of land there even if the additional benefits were not taken into account, said an investor with an industrial project and park in the region.

BAPL said it would pay this price though most of the project land was classified in land records as "agricultural" but had no organised irrigation facility and was consequently mono-crop. The area has only one village called Tamla with 262 dwellings, but is plagued by a large number of high-tension transmission lines criss-crossing the site, thereby rendering the site "hostile" and necessitating huge expenditure on relocation.

In comparison, the government had paid Rs 8.5 lakh to Rs 12 lakh an acre at Singur, 40 km from Kolkata, with little land actually falling in the multi-crop, fully-irrigated Rs 12 lakh category, with no assurance of compensatory land, jobs or annuity.

Land at Singur is now trading at Rs 10 lakh an acre for low-lying land and up to Rs 50 lakh an acre for high, drained land with frontage along the highway.

On August 27, the West Bengal government agreed to pay an unheard of Rs 10.14 lakh an acre for land within 200 metres of a state highway at Katwa, a poorly developed district town 100 km north of Kolkata at the confluence of the rivers Hoogly and Ajoy.

The offer price for land at Katwa before this was around Rs 1.5 lakh per acre.

"The BAPL price was actually the cost of developed land in the area and is unheard-of for raw land impeded by power lines," said an investor based in that area with interests in metals and education.

The Durgapur belt had a steel plant, several small secondary steel units and more than 30 management and engineering colleges.

The Katwa land, needed for a coal fired thermal power plant tapping a local seam, would be acquired at Rs 7.80 lakh an acre for plots located more than 200 metres from the road, with the package being approved by a local procurement committee.

Sharecroppers (bargadars in local parlance) will get 25 per cent of the value of the land and agricultural labourers wages for 300 days in advance at Katwa, much above existing rates.

BAPL claimed the rehabilitation and resettlement package was determined by consensus after meetings with representatives of all political parties and help both land givers and land dependents.

BAPL said even those with land parcels 5 km away from National Highway 2 would get the enhanced land value as well as land-for-land in the ratio of 1 cottah for every bigha (1 bigha= 20 cottahs) to give them substantial benefit of the inevitable appreciation of land value due to the project.

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