BSHB’s plan to build housing colony in Digha triggers violent protests

City SP, five other cops injured in locals’ attack, 12 arrested for scuffle as police carried out demolition on disputed land in Digha

Digha land dispute

Patna: The Bihar State Housing Board’s (BSHB) long-delayed plan to develop housing colony on disputed portion of land in Digha near Rajiv Nagar on Ashiana-Digha Road of the State Capital evoked violent protests from locals yet again on Sunday.

The clash between residents of Nepali Colony, which illegally came up in a portion of 400 acre disputed land on the western side of Ashiana-Digha Road, and the police erupted when the latter reached the area with scores bulldozers to demolish as many as 90 buildings on 40 acre plots. Five cops and the City SP (Central) were injured in the scuffle, which settled down on the arrival of Patna District Magistrate (DM) and the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) with reinforcement in the afternoon.

The Background

In 1974, the BSHB had acquired around 1024.52 acre land in Rajiv Nagar area on both sides of Ashiyana-Digha road for building Digha Housing Colony. As per the prevalent law, the landowners were to be paid ₹2250 for per katha (1361 square feet) land. The farmers started showing reluctance as the land rates got up by the time and the government refused to pay the compensation.

The BSHB’s lackadaisical approach led to litigation, which was finally settled by the Supreme Court in 1983 in favour of the board. The Apex Court directed the BSHB to acquire the land and pay the compensation through the DM. Accordingly, the board paid a sum of ₹17.42 crore in the account of DM in lieu of compensation, but farmers claimed to have not received it, leading to a protracted land dispute.

Digha land dispute

Dispute on Rajiv Nagar plots

However, as the process awarding compensation got delayed further and majority of the farmers still denied the payment for their land, they started selling plots to individuals in Rajiv Nagar area, which is situated on the eastern side of the road. As the district authorities had banned registration and mutation of plots in disputed area, people started getting it registered in Kolkata, Mumbai and other locations with support from private housing development agencies.

Finding it tough to evict all the people from Rajiv Nagar area, which sprang up on around 600 acre land in connivance with the district officials and the police, the BSHB had decided to acquire around 400 acre land, located on other side of the road, to develop the colony. The area is still less occupied. The State Government, on the other hand, decided to settle the plots of Rajiv Nagar locality in favour of the residents by enacting a law in 2010.

Digha land settlement scheme announced

In 2014, the State Government announced Digha Land Acquisition Settlement Scheme and registered the plots to the owners on payment of about 25% of the prevalent Government rate of the land in Rajiv Nagar area. Commercial plots were to be settled at higher prices. However, there was no such policy to settle the plots in western side of the road and the BSHB had prepared the plan to acquire it.

The land owners of Nepali Colony and adjacent areas were unhappy over the BSHB’s decision and filed a case in the Patna High Court against it in 2013 They cited the ground that the land would not be deemed to be acquired if 80% of the landowners were not paid the compensation. “There are many like me who have not been paid a penny as compensation,” claimed Ajay Kumar, a native of Jagdeopath, adding that the High Court is yet to start hearing of their plea.

Digha Land dispute

BSHB planned building boundary on 400acre land

Moved by continued disputes and violent protests from the locals, the BSHB had in 2017 decided to build boundary wall around 400 acre land, including the area of Nepali Colony, by removing encroachments. However, its repeated bids to evict the residents, who were enjoying patronage from local BJP MLA Sanjeev Chaurasia and others, could not succeed.

In 2019, the residents torched the vehicles of BSHB officials and police personnel when they went to demolish the unauthorised buildings. The residents claimed that they had got their plots registered as per the law, paid taxes to the Patna Municipal Corporation for availing civic services and got the electricity connections. “How can we be declared illegal occupants,” asked Avinash Chandra, a local resident. Many police personnel and local residents were injured in the clash when also saw firing of shots from both the sides.

Land Mafiosi behind violence: DM

DM Chandra Shekhar Singh suspected hands of land Mafiosi for instigating violence today. “We have decided to demolish all 90 houses on 40 acre land and would not step back until the task is over,” said Singh, adding that situation is under control after the police resorted to lathi charge and firing of teargas shells. The police have arrested 12 persons for disrupting the work and attacking the officials on duty.

The BSHB has also allocated some portion of land to the Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB) and Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) to build its office and residential complexes near Napali Colony.

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