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Land row brewing over Ganga erosion
- Sahebganj & Malda: a river runs through it

Ranchi/Malda, Dec. 25: The governments of Jharkhand and Bengal have locked horns over char land that has come up due to erosion in the banks of the Ganga along the Sahebganj-Malda border.

The deputy commiss-ioner of Jharkhand’s Sahebganj district has now written to the district administr-ation in Malda asking that the char land, which fall across the median of the flow of the Ganga, be handed over to them.

Malda district magistrate Chittaranjan Das rushed to Writers’ Buildings yesterday with the letter dated December 17 seeking the state administration’s intervention.

“The content of (Jharkhand’s) letter claiming the land cannot be accepted. They have asked for a joint survey and suggested that the border between the states be demarcated by the course of the river. But the Ganga has changed course drastically over the past three decades,” said the Malda district magistrate.

Das said Malda has lost 103 sq miles of land in the Panchanandapur, Manikchak and Kaliachak areas due to the erosion in Ganga’s banks.

“The eroded land has created the chars and there are people who hold cultivation rights there. I have asked the state government to take up the matter with Jhark- hand at the chief secre- tary level,” the Malda district magistrate said.

Jharkhand is still waiting for a response from the West Bengal government.

“We want to settle the dispute as soon as possible since there are several problems that are cropping up,” said S.S. Prasad, the Sahebganj deputy commissioner.

The Sahebganj administration favoured a joint survey of the stretch by the two district authorities as soon as possible. This, officials said, was the only way to resolve the dispute.

According to officials in Ranchi, local residents from Malda are frequenting the disputed zone and taking away the agriculture produce of farmers of Sahebganj.

They claim that since the land is in Bengal they are the rightful owners of the farm produce.

“This is leading to regular clashes. In the first week of December, there was a heavy exchange of fire between residents of Malda and Sahebganj for over an hour. Fortunately, there were no casualties,” said the Sahebganj sub-divisional officer, Bhujendra Baske.

Malda has similar stories to tell. Sources in the Malda district police said there were frequent clashes betw-een cultivators and those coming from Jharkhand to claim the crops.

“About two years ago we set up a police camp in one of the chars called Gadai char. But, our policemen were chased away by the Jharkhand police,” said a senior district police officer.

Senior government officials are of the view that since the problem is an inter-state one, higher authorities should play a proactive role.

“Land issues between two neighbouring states cannot be resolved at the level of the district administrat- ion. Unless top government officials get involved, there will be no solution,” said a senior land reforms department functionary.

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