Land row erupts in Birbhum, 25 cops injured
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In fresh trouble for Mamata Banerjee government, thousands of villagers who were protesting against land acquisition by a private coal mining company took on the police forces in Dubrajpur, in Birbhum district, about 200 kilometres from Kolkata, early today. Over 25 policemen are reported to have sustained injuries in what seemed like a well-orchestrated attack by the villagers who were armed with bows and arrows and crude bombs.
Amid allegations that the police had resorted to firing, state home secretary Basudeb Banerjee categorically stated that "there was no firing on the part of the police". While five villagers are reported to have been injured in the clashes that began late on Monday night, hospital officials also denied any bullet injuries.
All the five injured villagers are reported to be Trinamool Congress supporters from Loba village. As many as nine police vehicles were torched. In a late night development, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the removal of Birbhum SP H Meena, who was asked to proceed on leave.
The issue dates back to 2009, when EMTA, a private company which entered into a joint venture with the Damodar Valley Corporation for supply of coal to its plant, obtained the mining licence for the area. The company was slated to acquire 3,500 acres of land, but it has only been able to acquire 700 acres so far — 200 acres of government land and 500 acres of private land. Loba, which has a TMC-backed panchayat, and the surrounding villages fall within the 3,500-acre area.
About a year back, the company had brought in some earth-moving equipment to start work in the area. But the villagers, who alleged inadequate compensation and launched the Save Agricultural Land Committee supported by a TMC faction, did not allow any work to be carried out.
Today's flare-up was provoked by the company's attempt to remove the earth-moving equipment from the area, with the protection of the police forces.
"Earlier, private owners sold their land cheap... they later felt they had been cheated and set up the Save Agricultural Land Committee," said a local TMC leader on the condition of anonymity. Significantly, another TMC faction is reported to be supporting the private company.
As compensation, the mining company had provided Rs 4 lakh per acre for river bank land, Rs 8 lakh per acre for one-crop farmland, and Rs 10 lakh per acre for multi-crop farmland.
Meanwhile, EMTA officials in Kolkata declined to comment on the issue. Incidentally, EMTA was earlier de-allocated coal blocks in Himachal Pradesh in the wake of the coal block allocation controversy.
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