Column : Bengals newest Singur

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Aug 27 2009, 02:37am hrs
Just when the dust over Nandigram and Singur appeared to have been settling down with state land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah making it clear that the government would put a stop to haphazard land acquisition, another violent flare-up over land, this time in capital Kolkatas north-eastern fringes, has come back to haunt the government. The mob violence at the citys best-known 5-star spa and resort, Vedic Village, that destroyed at least 10% of the 125-acre property, was another shocking reminder of the state of lawlessness prevailing in West Bengal.

More importantly, it also points at the simmering discontent over land acquisition in the state. In fact home secretary Ardhendu Sen linked the arson to disgruntlement over land grabbing. But then the government itself has been leaning on the promoters of Vedic Realty, which set up a joint venture (Akash Nirman) with Webel, the states key IT agency, to get land for an IT project adjacent to the deluxe spa and involving majors Infosys and Wipro. That land sharks have been harassing farmers to give up their land is common knowledge. In a hurry to expand, there doesnt seem to be enough transparency in the system, a point Mollah has made time and again. Recently, state IT minister Debesh Das even announced that the state government would be ready to hand over land (90 acres each) to the two IT majors by December. Now, that project appears to be in doubt. And though officially the IT majors say theres no change in Kolkata expansion plans, everyone is not so sure.

What the incident will do to the hospitality sector is anybodys guess. Already, foreign bookings are down due to swine flu advisories, the downturn and so forth.

The torching of Vedic Village, which had a high foreigner interest, will severely impact businessand future projects. Located as it is in Rajarhat, which is being developed as a new township, the incident may even lead people away from the area, and thats the real scare for realtors, already battling a bad year.

sudipta.datta@expressindia.com