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Mamata govt wins over land agitators, work at Bhangar power project to resume after 19 months

The West Bengal government has agreed to downsize the project, take precautionary measures, adequately compensate landowners and even compensate the loss of lives and property caused by vandalism of the ruling party’s local leadership, said the agitators.

kolkata Updated: Aug 12, 2018 19:16 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee,Bhangar agitation,power project
Residents of about a dozen villages were protesting a 400/220 KV, SF6 gas-insulated sub-station of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd since November 2016, alleging adverse impact of high-tension transmission wires, forceful land acquisition and inadequate compensation. (HT File Photo)

In a major victory for West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee government, agitators who fought a bitter and bloody battle against a power project at Bhangar near Kolkata for the past 19 months have now agreed to allow resumption of work after the administration promised to downsize the project, increase compensation and shower the area with development projects.

“The government agreed to downsize the project, take proper precautionary measures, adequately compensate landowners and even compensate the loss of lives and property caused by vandalism of the ruling party’s local leadership. We are happy with the government’s approach. We always wanted a solution through talks,” said Alik Chakraborty, the leader of the agitation.

Chakraborty is a politburo member of the CPI(ML)(Red Star), a small Naxalite organisation that led the longest-drawn land agitation in the Trinamool Congress regime. The agitators signed an agreement with the administration on Saturday.

Residents of about a dozen villages were protesting a 400/220 KV, SF6 gas-insulated sub-station of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd since November 2016, alleging adverse impact of high-tension transmission wires, forceful land acquisition and inadequate compensation.

Work completely stopped since January 2017 after two locals died in firing by miscreants allegedly backed by local Trinamool Congress leaders. Later, another agitator died during a clash with ruling party supporters. Over the past 19 months, these villages had turned into virtual battle fields with frequent and bloody clashes between agitators and local Trinamool supporters.

The movement became a major headache for the ruling party as the Left, the Congress and various rights organisations backed the agitation.

The administration had booked several dozen agitators under various non-bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and got them jailed for months. Even the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was slapped on more than half a dozen leaders of the agitation, including Chakraborty.

Despite that, the agitators contested the rural elections and after a series of dramas that saw the involvement of the high court and the election commission, won 5 of the 9 seats. It was right after the elections that the government decided to get the leaders of the agitation to the table for talks.

“Work will resume on August 14, as all sides have come to a mutual understanding,” said Y Ratnakara Rao, district magistrate, South 24 Parganas.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 19:16 IST