14 July 2011

Invitation To Food Security Bill Meet

The National Advisory Council has submitted the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) to the Prime Minister. There are reports that the Bill will be introduced in this monsoon session. One of the main demands in the Right to Food Case has been for universal PDS and coverage of all the poor, and this demand has been only partially put into the NAC draft. 

At the same time, we have demanded universalisation of PDS in 150 districts to start with, in the Supreme Court under the Right to Food case. Meetings have been held with Justice Wadhwa of the court appointed Central Vigilance Committee on this, but progress has been slow. 

There are also concerns about cash transfers being introduced in PDS, with states of Bihar and Delhi having already started with it. There has been also a bumper rabi crop harvest this year, and the issue of storage and procurement becomes important. Distressing reports of rotting food grains alongside reports of starvation deaths are a regular feature. 

Another recent development is the declaration that a new BPL survey which the Ministry of Rural Development will soon conduct. The survey methodology continues to have severe problems and there is a need to address this urgently. 

We have also been receiving reports of fraud in National Old Age Pensions Scheme and ICDS, and the non-coverage of schools in Kolkata under the MDMS. The non-implementation of the Supreme Court orders on the homeless (given under the same Writ) has also been a cause of concern. NREGA also remains badly implemented. 

Keeping in mind these important issues, there is a need to strategise and come up with a plan of action. Along with a discussion on the above issues, we would also be taking a stock of the general scenario in the state, and plan how we can effectively intervene and take action. 

Please join us for a day-long meeting at: 

Date:   16 July 2011
Time:   11 am to 4 pm
Venue:   Academy of fine Arts Annexe Building (Near Rabindra Sadan Metro Station) Cathedral Road, Kolkata, West Bengal

11 am
Introduction to the meeting

11.05 to 11.20 am
The Status of Right to Food Orders in West Bengal : 2010 Study conclusions
Shreya Bhattacharya
11.20 am to 12.15 pm
Dealing with empty stomachs and overflowing godowns:
        i.            National Food Security Bill
       ii.            Cash transfers
     iii.            Universalisation in 150 districts
    iv.            2011 BPL survey
Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (Shreya Bhattacharya, Swapan Ganguly, Anuradha Talwar)
12.15 pm to 12.45 pm
PDS reforms: what needs to be done

West Bengal Govt Employees Union Nabaparjya

12.45 pm to 1.15 pm
ICDS and the challenges ahead
Association of Officers of West Bengal Junior Social Welfare Service
1.15 pm to 2.15 pm
Issues of the urban poor: Using the High Court ; Orders on homeless; NOAPS for urban poor
Debashis Bhattacharya, HRLN ; Reshmi Ganguly, Calcutta Samaritans; Sunil Rai
2.15 pm to 2.45 pm

2.45 pm to 4.00 pm
Plan ahead: what can be done
Anuradha Talwar

10 July 2011

Private Land Grab At Kulpi

Since 1998, there have been plans and rumours about setting up of a port (and later, an SEZ) in Kulpi. However, the local people had protested against the Left Front Government’s plans to acquire land under LA Act 1894. Reports also came out saying that studies had shown that the setting up of a third port with no special advantages so close to Kolkata and Haldia was unfeasible. The plan therefore seems to have been put on the back burner after 2007.
Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, which was an active participant in the Kulpi anti-land acquisition movement, however, began getting reports in 2010 of private purchases of large tracts of land in Belpukur and Ramkishore Gram Panchayat. There were rumours that all was not aboveboard, and in particular we got reports of great resentment amongst fishworkers, whose access to the river was being cut off by the new “owners”.

In July 2011, we began getting very bad reports of threats, coercion, cheating etc.  Land was being purchased, it was rumoured, for a shipbuilding yard. News reports revealed that 500 acres were required by Bengal Shipyard, a joint venture between Apeejay Surrendra Group and Bharat Shipyard of Mumbai to set up a shipbuilding (breaking) yard.

So far, villagers estimate that about 1500 bighas of land have been purchased in Belpukur Gram Panchayat (GP), mainly impacting people from Tangrachar and Rangaphala villages. 28 bighas have been purchased in Ramkishorepur GP. Subsequent inquiries have revealed the following:

Coercion, force and cheating in purchase of land

The purchase has all the elements of forcible acquisition and cheating e.g. villagers are complaining that the purchase of 27 acres 95.83 decimals in Rangaphala village has been done fraudulently, with only a few heirs receiving money for land that belongs to a number of heirs.  Female heirs have been deprived. One of the buyers, Mariyam Biwi (Vendor 46), has received the largest amount of Rs 500,833 but, according to the villagers, she is not even an heir.

Some of the villagers say that though they have not sold their land, all the people around them have sold it and they are now being forced to give their land even though they do not want to sell. The price being given by the buyers (approximately Rs 80,000 to 130,000 per bigha) is less than the Government valuation (Rs 150,000). Bargadars have been given less and have been given Rs 25,000- 50,000 per bigha, though they should get half the amount paid to the owner. 
There are 16 buyers, all of which are companies incorporated under the Companies Act 1956. Ten of these have the same registered address, while of the other six, three have the same registered address and two have the same address. According to newspaper reports, the address of 10 of the companies is not even an office but the home of one Sanjay Dhanuka.
The buyers have, in turn, authorised one Subrata Kanjilal (son of Amulya Chandra Kanjilal, 85 Prince Anwar Shah Road, Kolkata -70020) to transact land transfers.  The main middleman is reported to be Arup Chakraborty, who has an office at Kamalgachi, Sonarpur, (between Axis Bank and ICICI Bank ATM on the road towards Baruipur from Sonarpur).

There are a number of agents involved in Kulpi and a number of known anti-socials have entered the area, and are threatening people who are protesting against the use of force and coercion and cheating in these land deals.The land of about 40 patta holders, to which they never got access, has been sold by the present users of the land, against the wishes of the pattadars, breaking the law which says that land for which pattas have been given cannot be sold.


None of the local people has been consulted on the project to be put up in the area.  They are totally in the dark about the project that is to come up there, the impact it will have on their environment and social life, and the employment to be lost and created through it. The local MLA, Jogaranjan Haldar, also denies any knowledge of the project as does the District Magistrate.

Loss of employment  

The greatest adverse impact of the land transaction has been on the fishworkers in the area. There are about 2000 such fishworkers in this area, whose access to the river and the riverbank has been cut off by the purchase of this land, as the purchasers have blocked the riverfront. The fishworkers allege that the purchasers have occupied the riverbank which is not land that has been purchased by them. This has also meant that small huts made by them on the riverfront for their livelihood have also been forcibly taken over.  Similarly, unregistered bargadars, poor farmers who used to lease in land and agricultural labour are also losing their employment with no alternatives being given to them.

Administration’s action

The affected people have informed the administration about their problems at various times. An appeal by the fishworkers to one of the purchasing companies appealing for compensation for loss of occupation has been brought to the notice of Minister of State, Government of India and local Member of Parliament (CM Jatua), Sabhapati of Kulpi Panchayat Samity, the Pradhan and two members of Belpukur GP in September and November 2011.  A member of the Zilla Parishad on 10.11.2010, the Karmadhayksha Kulpi Panchayat Samity on 19.10.2010, Member of the Panchayat Samity on 1.11.2010 have also appealed to the purchasers to help the fishworkers. However, no one has bothered to check what the project is and what impact it will have on the people of their area, as well as the legal aspects of the entire purchase procedures.

On January 18 this year, about 38 persons from Rangaphala village of Belpukur GP informed the Kulpi police station (PS) about the cheating and the coercion taking place, their reluctance to allow fencing of the land and the possibility of deterioration of law and order in the area. On July 5, the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity informed the BDO, Kulpi block, about the problems of the area and its people and appealed for his intervention

On July 7, some of the local people accompanied by PBKMS activists met the District magistrate and informed him of the problems. So far, no action has been taken by the administration to ensure that land deals take place in fair, transparent and non-coercive manner, without an adverse impact on the poor fishworkers and agricultural workers of the area. 

Related Post: Letter To District Magistrate

Kulpi: Letter To District Magistrate

[Below is the letter that PBKMS sent to the South 24 Parganas District Magistrate, N.S.Nigam, in West Bengal on July 8, 2011, about land grab by private agents in Kulpi]

Thank you for talking to members of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity yesterday to get a first-hand account of the problems that they are facing in Belpukur GP of Kulpi block due to forcible acquisition of their land. As requested by you yesterday, we have prepared a note on the problems there, which is enclosed for your information and action.

To state the problem in brief, about 500 acres of land in Kulpi block are being bought up a number of companies who are patently fraudulent. It is rumoured that a ship building yard is to come up there. However, there is no transparency on this matter with even the local MLA being in the dark. There has been no consultation with the local people on this project, even though their lives and livelihood are being affected adversely by this acquisition. Who are the actual owners of the land and the implementers of this project also remains clouded in mystery.

To further aggravate matters, in Rangaphala and Tangrarchar mouzas the land purchasers are using a number of middlemen, many of them anti-socials and are using force and threats to take land from unwilling sellers. In addition, a number of cases of cheating actual owners and heirs have been there, including fraudulent purchase of land of poor pattadars. Registered bargadars and owners have also been underpaid.

About 2000 fish workers are also being deprived their access to the river front and the river by the purchasers. They are losing their livelihood and facing destitution. A similar fate is facing unregistered bargadars, landless agricultural workers and small farmers who used to take this land on lease. No compensation is being paid to them though they are losing their livelihood due to the land being purchased and fenced off.

We request your intervention in this matter, especially as the area is now quite tense, with the purchasers and their agents using threats and physical force against those who are protesting about the illegal and forcible land purchase. 

Related post: Private land grab

07 July 2011

Join Our Discussion On Charter Of Demands For Unorganised Workers

Asanghathit Khetra Shramik Sangrami Mancha, a platform of unorganised sector worker unions (of which Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity is also a member) invites you to a consultation with trade unions on a charter of demands that we have presented to the present State Government. Our demands are focused around the following areas:
  • Fixing and implementation of minimum wages for workers in the unorganised sector
  • Provision of subsidised foodgrain to all unorganised sector workers, along with reforms in the public distribution system;
  • Guaranteed employment for all rural workers as per provisions of the MGNREGA and enactment of an urban employment guarantee act, along with regular payment of old age pensions under IGNOAPS.
Representatives from major trade unions in the state will be present and shall comment on the Manch's demands and plan of action. 
                   Venue: Academy of Fine Arts Annexe Building, Kolkata.
                   Date/Time: 9 July, 11.00 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Looking forward to your presence and participation,

Swapan Ganguly       Somnath Ghosh

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