Ruckus in Himachal assembly over land acquisition

Shimla:The Himachal Pradesh assembly on Saturday witnessed heated arguments and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party legislators staged a walkout protesting the two-fold compensation by the state government for acquiring land for expansion of highways, when the centre was giving four-fold.

During Question Hour, BJP member Satpal Satti questioned the state government for awarding two-fold compensation for acquiring land from the owners for the four-laning of the 195-km Kiratpur-Manali NH-21 when the centre was offering four-fold.

The total outlay for strengthening the highway is Rs 6,403 crore.

Satti said: "When the Modi government is ready to allocate four-time compensation, then why the state is allocating two-fold compensation to the landowners."

Replying to his assertions, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the state is giving compensation for its road and other projects at twice the market price.

"When we are paying the compensation at twice the market rates for our projects, why should we pay four-fold compensation for the central projects," Virbhadra Singh said.

Taking a jibe at the central government, the Chief Minister said even the BJP government in Gujarat is paying two-fold compensation for the national highways.

Intervening during the debate, Revenue Minister Kaul Singh said the government can't afford to give higher compensation.

"We can't discriminate between the state and the central projects," he said, adding that the financial condition of the state is not healthy enough to award higher compensation.

Leader of Opposition and two-time former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal asked the government whether it would write to the central government to award four-fold compensation for the Kiratpur-Manali highway.

At this, Kaul Singh replied that if the central government wanted to award higher compensation it could go ahead. "We have no problem. We are farmer friendly."

He said the BJP governments in Punjab, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir are also giving two-fold compensation for national projects.

As BJP member Satpal Satti was speaking, he was disturbed by members of the treasury benches. This agitated the BJP legislators, who stood up and staged a walkout raising slogans.

After a few minutes they returned to the House and participated in the proceedings.

The Chief Minister informed the House that the central government has allocated Rs.2,627 crore for the four-laning of the 89-km Parwanoo-Shimla national highway.