Bengal govt plans to give 10 cents of land to 10 lakh landless households

Abhishek Law Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on June 15, 2011 Published on June 15, 2011

Sharecroppers to get financial assistance to buy land

The expert panel to form a land use policy in the State today proposed a Rs 1,500 crore scheme to offer 0.01 acre land to each of the 10 lakh landless households, primarily in the rural areas, in the state in next five years.

Other proposals include a complete ban on government land acquisition for industry; setting area-wise minimum benchmark price of land wherein the value of land will be determined both in terms of property as well as a livelihood option; ban on genetically modified crops and encouraging farmers to reduce use of inorganic fertilisers.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr Debabrata Bandopadhyay said that the recommendations are now under consideration of the Chief Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee. Since land is on top of Ms. Banerjee's priority, it is widely considered that bulk of the proposals may be implemented.

According to the panel, as per the last National Sample Survey (NSS) 2005-06, West Bengal has 10 lakh land less households, of which 5.5 lakh are homeless. “We have proposed outright purchase of land for redistribution of 10 cent land to each landless households.

Cost of scheme

The land purchase is estimated to cost Rs 1,500 crore. However, the actual cost incidence on the state may be lower if support is drawn from various existing Central schemes on the same objective,” he said.

Back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the government may require 1 lakh acre of land to implement the proposal.

Incidentally, Mr. Bandopadhyay was one of the architects of the land vesting and re-distribution policy of the Left Front in 1977. According to available reports the state has redistributed 11.28 lakh acres to 30 lakh farmers through this route during the 34 year Left rule.

Financial assistance

The panel has also proposed provision of financial assistance through banks to help assist the sharecroppers to purchase land from the owners. In Bengal the sharecropper, though not a landowner, enjoys the right to cultivate on the land and claim a share of the produce.

Direct purchase for industry

In tune with Ms. Banerjee's staunch opposition to government land acquisition for industry, the expert panel too has proposed no intervention of government in availing land for industry. “Industry should directly purchase the land from the farmer. However, by benchmarking area-wise land prices, government will ensure that the farmer gets a fair value,” the panel proposed.

Impact on land prices

Interestingly, if implemented the proposals may clearly push land prices up in the rural Bengal on two counts: First the government's bid to purchase land and second benchmarking the value of the land. Since the panel proposes to consider land as a livelihood option and not merely as a property, the price of land is expected to be benchmarked higher than the existing market value especially in areas which are till date underdeveloped.

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Published on June 15, 2011
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