Monday, 30th October 2017

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Land offer for refugees on central plots

The regularisation of the colonies is considered significant in the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens

  • Published 26.11.19, 2:14 AM
  • Updated 26.11.19, 2:16 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The state cabinet has approved a proposal of giving rights to 11,986 refugee families on 973 acres of central government said Mamata Banerjee Telegraph file picture

Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced regularisation of 237 refugee colonies on central government land across Bengal even as questions arose on whether the state could give freehold rights to people settled down on plots owned by the Union government.

“The state cabinet has approved a proposal of giving rights to 11,986 refugee families on 973 acres of central government. The cabinet decided to regularise the land on which the refugees have been living for more than 48 years,” the chief minister said during a programme at Nabanna on Monday afternoon to flag off few trucks loaded with relief materials for the Cyclone Bulbul victims.

The regularisation of the colonies is considered to be significant in the backdrop of fear of the National Register of Citizens in a large part of the state, particularly in border districts.

Earlier this year, the chief minister had announced that 94 refugee colonies set up on state government land would be regularised. As per the announcement, freehold land rights are to be given to nearly 13,350 families.

“The chief minister now took up the issue of the families living on the central government land. By raising the issue, she cleverly put the ball on the central BJP government’s court. Moreover, it would send a message that the chief minister is equally concerned about refugees,” said a senior government official.

A section of officials at Nabanna said it would be tough for the state to regularise the refugee colonies on the central government land.

“If the state wants to give freehold rights to the refugee families on the land they are living, the state has to get the possession of the plots from the Centre. The state can request the Centre to relinquish the land in favour of the state. But it is doubtful whether the central agencies would agree to the proposal even if the state offers compensation,” said an official.

A minister, who was present at the cabinet meeting, said the primary target of the government was to bring the issue to public domain so that the central agencies got into action to do something for the refugees.

“The state had written to Delhi in January for measures to regularise the refugee colonies on its land. But Nabanna has received no response from the Centre yet. We want to assure the refugees that the state government would fight for their cause,” said the minister.

A Trinamul leader said all the refugee colonies in Bengal were set up by the Hindus, who crossed over from Bangladesh.

“Altogether about 1.5 lakh people reside in the refugee colonies. The BJP was eyeing the refuges by bringing in the Citizenship Amendment Bill. But Didi made it clear that she would stand by them come what may,” he added.

Another minister said the state government had decided to issue certificates to the refugees residing on the central government land in case the state failed to secure freehold land rights for them.

“We would certify the refugees have been living on the land for more than 48 to 50 years. The certificate would help them prove their Indian citizenship,” said the minister.

Trinamul insiders said the chief minister raised the issue at a time the Centre was gearing up to place the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament during the current winter session. The bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.