The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bill leash on benami land

Calcutta, July 2: The government is renewing efforts to retrieve benami or ceiling-surplus plots held by big landowners in the state in the face of a growing demand for land to set up industry.

The West Bengal Estates Acquisition Amendment Bill will be placed in the Assembly on Wednesday to give legal teeth to the drive.

The amendment to the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953, will extend by 10 years, under Section 44(2a) of the act, the government’s powers to suo motu revise records of land rights by another 10 years. The powers expire this November.

“The drive to detect land held clandestinely by big landowners is still continuing and this section has become an important instrument for countering the evasion of ceiling by unscrupulous owners,” land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah said today.

The bill will also correct the “erroneous record of rights” as the updating of land-holding records in many mouzas is long overdue, he said, indicating that the move would help fine-tune the land map required to identify land for industry and agriculture.

It would also help give effect to various court orders relating to land records, the minister added.

The CPM’s allies pointed out that Mollah had not mentioned the original purpose of the amendment — redistribution of the recovered land — in the bill.

The 1953 act was an instrument to abolish zamindari. It was later amended several times during the Left Front regime to speed up land reforms.

The government, which recently completed 30 years, has claimed to have recovered 29.82 lakh acres of benami and ceiling-surplus land till March 2006 for redistribution among the landless.

Around 29.50 lakh people have received pattas so far, it said. Pattas are deeds that ensure a landless peasant’s right to cultivate a patch of government land.

However, the government drew flak from the Opposition and allies alike for redistributing only around 11 lakh acres, less than half the recovered land.

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