|From the Telegraph|
|Calcutta, Dec. 3: A Calcutta High Court bench wondered today whether central funds meant as land compensation for expanding a key national highway in Bengal had been "distributed from the Netaji Indoor Stadium recently".|
The judge did not specify which programme he was referring to.
At a state sports department event on December 1, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a grant of Rs 140 crore for 10,000 sport clubs.
"The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had already handed over funds for compensation to the state government. Then why haven't the land losers got their compensation? Am I to understand that the sum has been distributed from the Netaji Indoor Stadium recently?" Justice Sanjib Banerjee asked the state-empanelled standing counsel.
Pranab Dutta, standing counsel of the state, remained silent. The court granted five days to clear the compensation dues to hundreds of people from whom land was acquired for the expansion of NH 34, which links Calcutta airport to north Bengal and is often described as the backbone of the state.
The court was hearing petitions moved by a section of landlosers of Murshidabad, who said they were yet to get the compensation five years after their plots were acquired.
A week ago, the judge had directed the state to start the process of disbursing compensation and report the progress. Today, no one appeared from the government pleader's office and only the standing counsel was present.
"This is like cutting of (the) nose to spite the face," the judge said, referring to the state government's approach vis-à-vis the expansion of the highway.
"I will have to take adverse action," Justice Banerjee told the state-empanelled lawyer, asking him to complete the process of distribution of compensation in five days.
The Mamata government had come under criticism earlier in connection with the highway expansion because of the administration's unwillingness to acquire land for the project in line with the ruling party's hands-off land policy.
After waiting till late 2014 for handover of the land by the state government, the NHAI offered the land losers higher compensation.
Land for national highways is acquired under the National Highways Act, 1956. Under the provisions of the act, the additional district magistrate (land acquisition) in a particular district acts as the nodal officer for the acquisition process on behalf of the NHAI.
"The NHAI transfers the amount required for compensation to the account of the nodal officer.... It is the nodal officer's responsibility to distribute the compensation to the landlosers," said a senior NHAI official.
Separate protests - for compensation and against acquisition itself - have brought to a halt the highway expansion between Beldanga and Farakka in Murshidabad.