Mamata's land rights promise political gimmick: GJM

31 Mar 2017

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha today termed chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s promise to provide land rights to Mirik residents a political gimmick with an eye on the municipality polls slated sometime in May.
The chief minister, while declaring Mirik as a new sub-division on Thursday, said a committee would be formed to survey the area after which land rights would be made available to residents.
Peculiarly, Mirik is a notified area that came into being in 1984 by agglomerating the lands of Thurbo tea estate and Khasmal areas covering 6.50 square kilometres. This is to say that of the nine municipality wards, seven fall under tea garden area and do not have (parcha patta) land rights.
Arguing their point further, GJM general secretary Roshan Giri today said, “In 2011 a survey was conducted in all the nine wards under Mirik municipality by the Left Front government. The assessment and survey details along with the proposed map have already been submitted. So where is the need for the present state government to conduct a fresh survey and that too just ahead of the municipality polls?"
The GJM perceives Banerjee as playing a vote game to ensure the TMC is able to form the municipality board in Mirik with the land right promise, which is a burning issue not only in the plains but also in the hills. “We feel it is nothing but a political gimmick of the chief minister to win votes. If Bengal is sincere, they should provide land rights to people of all the 87 tea gardens of the hills, the Cinchona plantation and forest villages,” Giri said.
D.K. Pradhan, the GJM Darjeeling sub-divisional president and former municipality chairman, highlighted the nitty-gritty of acquiring land from tea gardens and why doing so could be an uphill task for the state government. “The tea gardens (in this case Thurbo) are a leasehold land. First, the state government must issue a notification, which has not been done yet. Secondly, the retained surplus land has to be resumed from the tea garden. And then comes the process of survey by a district level committee to identify who has how much land,” he said.
Pradhan said the GJM was not against land rights to the people of Mirik provided the land/house holding was given as revenue free with the original area owned. “There is a clear government guideline that only 2 katthas (six decimals) are to be given under the EWS (economically weaker section) scheme. However, many people own more than 1 acre of land. So what will the state government stand be in this regard as also declaring a revenue free land?" questioned the GJM sub-divisional president.
Meanwhile, N.B. Khawas, the hill TMC working president, said the chief minister's decision to start a survey for land rights was commendable as it has been a long pending demand of the people living in tea garden areas. “We took up the issue of land rights in Mirik because people there raised it with us. The GJM allegation is baseless. As for giving land rights to people in other tea gardens and cinchona plantation areas, our trade union will take up the issue with the state government,” he said when asked. (EOIC)