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

No comments:

Post a Comment