The smooth handing over of 50 acres of land by the West Bengal government to Infosys did not help overcome the growing resistance of farmers in the state. Faced with a stiff resistance, the administration has stopped the mandatory hearings with the landowners in Salanpur, Asansol where the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) had earlier initiated moves to acquire 2,550 acres of land for the proposed industrial park.
Though in their first notification issued in 2008, the WBIDC had mentioned that the land would be acquired in Salanpur for Bhushan Steel's proposed steel plant, the recent notification for hearings published in early November this year did not mention Bhushan Steel's name. Instead, the district administration mentioned that the land would be needed for their proposed industrial park.
The land, if acquired, will involve people from 42 villages. But villagers did not agree to take part in the hearings. Apprehending acquisition bid, villagers have formed a committee to protect their land and shown interest in initiating a hard bargain for the land price. Amal Maji of Khudika village, one of the leaders of the resistance committee, made it clear that the villagers had demanded to know about the purpose of the land acquisition. "We need to know for whose benefit the land would be acquired," said Maji, hinting at the prospect for a direct negotiation with the private investor.
Though the villagers have formed a committee, it seems they are keen to settle for a higher price for their land. Land in Salanpur is mostly arid by nature and it yields hardly one major crop. Villagers claim that it is mostly multi-crop land to bargain for a better price. By demanding Rs 18 lakh per acre as compensation, they have given the broad hint of their willingness. Faced with this situation, the district administration has stopped the hearings indefinitely.