The Telegraph
Wednesday , May 23 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
CIMA Gallary

Relief for Bengali settlers

Bhubaneswar, May 22: The Odisha government has simplified the procedures for issuing of caste and residential certificates, with an aim to extend benefits under various welfare schemes, much to the relief of nearly one lakh Bengali settlers. The simplified procedure was related to a 50-year-old rule that had come as an obstacle in providing benefits to the settlers.

In 1964, the government of India had settled the migrated Bengali families in 215 villages in Malkangiri district and 65 villages in Umerkote and Raighar in Nabarangpur district. The Bengalis came from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. They had migrated and settled in 1961 onwards. At that time, the Centre had issued identity cards where the detailed family particulars were mentioned.

In 1979, government of India handed over these families to the Odisha government under the Dandakaranya project. Member of the Legislative Assembly Aurobinda Dhali said: “At that time of settlement, it was the only document to prove their identity. The names of the family members had been written in the card.”

After these families were handed over to the Odisha government, land patta was issued. These were considered as the only authenticated document to issue caste certificates and residential certificate. On that basis, the settlers were entitled to avail benefits under various welfare schemes.

Problem cropped up when the new generation family members applied for caste certificates. “The local revenue officials instead of asking for the land records demanded identity cards issued by the government of India. However, names of new generation members are found missing in the cards. It creates a huge problem for new members to avail the benefits,” said Dhali.

A few people have also lost the cards issued 50 years ago. “When a Bengali settler is applying for caste certificate and residential certificate, the tehsildar concerned and revenue officials are demanding the 50-year-old family identity card for issuing the above certificates only to harass them,” said Rabindra Nath Pal, a resident of Umerkote.

Later, the issue was brought to notice of the chief minister by the BJD legislator, Dhali, who himself is a Bengali settler. Going through the complaints, the chief minister had asked to look into the details.

Later, the revenue department issued a direction to the collectors of Malkangiri and Nabarangpur not to ask for family identity cards as a piece of evidence from the Bengali settlers.

“We may ask for family identity cards as a piece of evidence if land patta is not available,” said special secretary of revenue department S.N. Ahmed.

The new rules would be applicable to all the Bengalis settled across the state, official sources said.