Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “scattered slums in Kolkata” remark on Sunday at the Brigade rally drew flak from the CPI-M leadership which termed the BJP-led central government “land shark” and demanded that central government- owned lands which remain unutilised be returned to the people to ensure slum dwellers’ rehabilitation and improvement of their standard of living.

Addressing the Press, CPIM politburo member Md Salim termed Modi’s rally as a ‘Sikka and chawanni Brigade’ which failed to become ‘16 annas or one rupee’.

“Today Modi talked about jhupri hatao (remove scattered slums), but it is the same man who during the Covid lockdown period couldn’t look beyond a balcony from where he asked countrymen to clap and light candles to rid India of coronavirus,” said Salim. He added: “How many smart cities did this Modi government promise and how many have been built across the country? And now he is promising to build one in Kolkata if the BJP comes to power.” “Unless people are first granted land rights, no government grant can be of any use. We demand that the Centre must return their unutilised lands in Kolkata, be it a land of Kolkata Port, Railway or Ministry of Defence.

The amendment to the 2013 Land Acquisition Act requires that the Centre return a land to the people if it remains unutilised within the stipulated time period for which it was allotted.

The slum-dwellers along railway tracks must get land rights to improve their standard of living. Instead of handing over vacant government lands to business tycoons at Rs 1, it should be handed over to the poor,” the veteran leader said.

“In 34 years of Left Front rule there was no increase in scattered slums in Kolkata. One needs to understand that if infrastructure in villages is not strengthened, then there will be migration to the city, thus giving rise to more slums. At least PM Modi has now come down from balcony to spare a thought about the slums on the ground,” Salim remarked.

He further criticised the Prime Minister for not talking on any “real issues” when petrol/diesel and LPG prices are soaring.

Salim added that while Modi talks of extortion and loot in Bengal by the TMC, behind him on the stage sat the very persons who were involved in the loot, but are now “polishing BJP’s boots with TMC flags”.