Bengal Global Business Summit: Disruption in power grid project will not dent summit, says Mamata

By: | Published: January 19, 2017 2:30 PM

Ahead of the Bengal Global Business Summit, when Bhangar, a village in South 24 Paraganas, turned violent on the issue of land acquisition for a Rs 225 crore power grid project, the bitterness between the state and the centre on the issue of demonetization seems to have created a face off.

West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee is confident that none of the issues will dent the success of the summit and the investment climate will remain upbeat. (Reuters)West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee is confident that none of the issues will dent the success of the summit and the investment climate will remain upbeat. (Reuters)

Ahead of the Bengal Global Business Summit, when Bhangar, a village in South 24 Paraganas, turned violent on the issue of land acquisition for a Rs 225 crore power grid project, the bitterness between the state and the centre on the issue of demonetization seems to have created a face off. But West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee is confident that none of the issues will dent the success of the summit and the investment climate will remain upbeat.

While the state invited President of India Pranab Mukherjee, Finance and corporate affairs minister Arun Jaitely and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Jaitely is likely to skip the summit on plea of the upcoming budget. However, there are talks in corners that though Jaitely agreed to attend the session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has obstructed him from attending.

The state is also not expecting many high profile business leaders from across the country to attend the summit. But for the first time four countries namely Japan, Poland, Italy and Germany have agreed to be partners in the summit giving hope to future foreign investments. But the state’s stance on land would be a hindrance to their success in attracting investment, Craig. L. Hall, the US consul general in Kolkata, recently said at an interactive session.

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The state as a matter of policy is against forcible land acquisition and would not involve itself in any acquisition but the problem in Bhangar has once again cropped up from acquisition of 13 acres.

“We have not acquired any land for the project, nor the government will acquire any land for any project in future,” Mukul Roy, member of the parliament said. Roy has been given charge to handle the situation in Bhangar. A group of people with vested interest has misled the villagers, led to eruption of violence leaving two people to die, Roy said.

Power Grid Corporation Ltd spokesperson Chetan Verma said the required land was directly purchased from the farmers paying 4 times more than the prevailing price of land. The land was purchased for setting up two 440/220 KV substations for transmitting steady power to the eastern region and facilitating power trade. While such projects do not require huge tracts of land, Power Grid have further reduced land requirement by making use of GIS technology, Verma said.

Power Grid was constructing a substation on 1.8 acres but with eruption of violence, the project work has been stalled. However, Power Grid expects that work for the project will resume once the situation came under control.

State power minister Sobhondeb Chattopadhyay said this project would improve the quality of transmission, which would have a positive impact on the quality of power. The power, which was supposed to flow from Power Grid’s Purnea substation, would facilitate power trading, from which the state estimated to earn additional revenue of Rs 300 crore a year.

This has been a conspiracy to tarnish West Bengal’s image, according to Partha Chattopadhyay, former industry minister. However, Mamata considered it to be an intelligence failure on the part of the police administration because a group of Maoist mobilized people against the project campaigning that the high tension lines would create a lot of health hazard for the locals and the police did not notice it allowing such campaigns to continue.

According to a section of the locals, a few promoters, who have already acquired land for housing projects, were fuelling such a campaign because the high tension lines would be an obstruction to such projects. This led to a turf war between two groups of land sharks, one who facilitated acquisition for the Power Grid project and other who acquired for the real estate business, which finally erupted into a mass violence. While power grid was constructing a substation on 1.8 acres, 13 acres have been purchased on behalf of them to put up transmission towers. “We now demand additional compensation because these transmission towers will hamper all other developments and will even hamper agriculture on the nearby land, Manirul Islam, a local resident said.

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