Sunday, November 29, 2009

Red terror pushes up land prices in Midnapore

Sukumar Mahato, TNN 29 November 2009,

MIDNAPORE: Security comes for a price, and land owners in Midnapore town are not complaining. Land prices shot up in the area after well-to-do villagers from Maoist-hit villages in West Midnapore started looking for safer places in the town and adjoining areas.

As security forces slog it out in the forests, plot owners in Midnapore town make the most of the fear among villagers. According to a land official, prices have trebled in the last couple of years. "A cottah of land in the Manikpur, Ballavpur, Hanspukur, Habibpur areas of Midnapore town, about 128 km from Kolkata, is selling at Rs 2-3 lakh. It was Rs 40,000-60,000 some years ago," the official said.

That's not all. With a section of villagers looking for safer areas, Midnapore town is also expanding with fresh construction coming up in neighbouring Dharma, Enayetpur, Abas and Golapichawk up to the Vidyasagar University area in Midnapore.

Those who can't afford to buy plots are looking to rent houses in the town or somewhere in its vicinity so that they can easily send their wards to school. Even a year ago, one could easily get a three-room accommodation on a monthly rent of Rs 1,500-2,000. But after the Maoist disturbance, owners are demanding nearly double the amount, around Rs 3,000-4,500.

House owners have their worries, though. Wary of Maoists taking their houses on rent, owners are running thorough checks on the background of potential tenants from Lalgarh, Salboni or Jhargram. Bachelors are having an even tougher time.

There was a similar migration to Midnapore town during the trouble in Keshpur and Garbeta. Hundreds of villagers left their ancestral homes and bought land in the town to set up a new residence.

More than 150 political workers and leaders were butchered and another 500 forced to leave their homes at Keshpur and Anandapur between 1998 and 2000. When CPM regained its hold on Keshpur, the rivals belonging to Trinamool Congress had to leave the village. People from Keshpur came to Midnapore and settled in a place near the town, which later came to be known as Keshpurnagar. Both CPM's Keshpur zonal committee secretary Entaj Ali and former Trinamool leader Mohammed Rafique built houses in Midnapore.

Parimal Mahato, high school teacher and former CPM member from Salboni, said: I never thought of leaving my village because I wanted to help out students there. But I had to move out as my life was at risk. Initially, I took a house on rent and then constructed a house."

Pranab Basu, chairman of the Midnapore civic board, said population in the town is "increasing by the day". "It was around 1.3 lakh ten years ago. Now, it is nearly 2 lakh. We are trying to create infrastructure for the newly developed areas."

Former civic chief Nazim Ahmed said: "Many people choose Midnapore as a safe place for home. I know, there were hardly 22,000 houses in 1998. Now, it has crossed 30,000 in the original town and will be more if you count the adjoining area."

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