The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reforms II hits those who tasted fruits of first
- Who'll pay bargadars'

Calcutta, July 23: The acquisition of farmland for industry has pushed the primary beneficiaries of the Left Front's land reforms ' the bargadars or sharecroppers ' against the wall.

The question that dogs Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's administration now is who ' the government, investors or landowners ' should compensate them for the land whose tilling rights they will lose.

According to the existing provision for compensation, sharecroppers are entitled to six times the value of the annual yield on a particular plot.

When the government announced the compensation for those set to lose land because of the Tata project at Hooghly's Singur, it became apparent that the bargadars were only getting a pittance compared with the landowners.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah has already raised the 'plight of the sharecroppers' in the party and even proposed that they be paid 50 per cent of the value of the land.

Party insiders said while the peasants' lobby, both in the government and the CPM, wants corporate investors to pay the increased compensation to the sharecroppers, others ap-prehend that such a decision would scare away investors.

'Now the bargaining is on who will foot the bill. The landowners, many of whom have small holdings, cannot be asked to shoulder the burden. The responsibility should lie with the government's land-acquiring bodies and finally, the in-vestors. But we are yet to arrive at a consensus on the issue,' said Samar Baora, the state secretary of the CPM peasants' wing, Krishak Sabha.

Party sources also said there are 'grey areas' in the compensation package for the pattadars or landless or marginal farmers who received tiny amounts of vested land earlier.

Baora said the pattadars have the right to cultivate but, unlike the bargadars, they do not have any right to the land itself. 'Officially, there are around 15 lakh bargadars and 28 lakh pattadars in the state.'

Industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen declined to clarify whether the government would urge investors to make the extra payment. 'The state's interest matters most,' he said.

The notice served at Singur does not mention the new package for bargadars, said local panchayat samiti president Ranjit Mondal.

After the news of the prospect of compensation worth 50 per cent of the land price spread, over 150 unrecorded sharecroppers applied for registration, Mondal said.

There are 300-400 registered sharecroppers in the three panchayat areas where the Tata unit will come up.

Mondal said: 'The number of bargadars claiming dam- ages will multiply as many had earlier not recorded their rights, either for good relations with landowners or because of family disputes following the death of the original bargadar.'

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