Durgapur airport city in crisis over land acquisition

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Inside of the Passenger lounge at the Andal airport. Picture taken on 14th September 2013

India’s first airport city at Andal of Durgapur is in deep crisis. Trouble over land acquisition has further posed a threat to the state’s much ambitious airport city project named Sujalaam Skycity.

After higher administration’s meeting with the aggrieved farmers failed yesterday, it now seems that the almost completed airport will not be able to meet its fifth deadline for commencement of flight operation on 14th April 2014.

A section of aggrieved farmer families at Andal possessing 109 acres in the heart of the project have refused to provide land for the Rs 10,000 crore airport city venture.

Inside of the Passenger lounge at the Andal airport city. Picture taken on 14th September 2013
Inside of the Passenger lounge at the Andal airport. Picture taken on 14th September 2013

The villagers under ‘Krishijomi Raksha Committee’ (Save Farmland Committee) have stopped civil construction work in the project since yesterday. The farmers have blocked the project site and refused entry of machines and labourers on the 109 acres of farmland, against which they haven’t accepted land premium cheques.

Another section of villagers at Andal also have stopped civil work in Damodar Valley Corporation’s thermal power project yesterday on the issue of jobs.

The state power minister, Mr Manish Gupta, incidentally had been to the project yesterday itself to hold a meeting with the officials for another difficulty faced by the company on the question of shifting high tension power lines.

Convener of the agitating committee, Mr Sushil Ghosh, alleged: “Bengal Aerotropolis, the promoter of the airport city project is offering mere thousands of rupees as land premium to us but what we have seen is that they are selling the same land against Rs 6 lakh per cottah as minimum price to different companies and businessmen.” Mr Ghosh said: “In the name of an aviation project what they are doing is just a realty business on our land and this we won’t allow, unless we are paid at par.”

From November 2005, when Bengal Aerotropolis Project Limited first conceived by the erstwhile Left Front government it has time and again ran into bumpy roads. From the very beginning, Mamata Banerjee who was in opposition then, had serious reservation and apprehension about the project. Buoyed by the success of the Singur and Nandigram land agitation, the farmers at Andal had in a number of occasions stalled work at Andal airport.
But this time, the agitating landowners seems to absolutely reluctant. They are in no mood of parting away from their land.

Yesterday, the ADM (Land Acquisition), Burdwan, Mr Utpal Biswas, and the ADCP (East) of Asansol Durgapur Police Commissionerate, Mr Sunil Yadav, held a conciliatory meeting with the agitators at the Durgapur SDM’s office. The meeting however failed to yield any positive result as the villagers refused to vacate and put forward the demand for substitute land at Andal mouza besides land premium at the current price.

Mr Biswas, meanwhile, evaded replies to the questions regarding yesterday’s meeting. The DM, Burdwan, Dr Soumitra Mohan told reporters: “They have demanded fresh rate for land and this matter needs to be discussed further.”

The project has already been facing hurdles due to funds crunch and the fresh land agitation would surely cause BAPL discomfort. One project official said: “We tried to convince the villagers several times but they are absolutely reluctant this time.”

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