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Bengal govt asks to form block-level panels to check land graft

Move is being seen as an attempt to rein in such practices in rural areas
Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata Banerjee.
File photo

Soumya De Sarkar, Avijit Sinha   |   Siliguri/Malda   |   Published 02.07.22, 02:14 AM

The Bengal government has instructed the formation of land services monitoring committees in every block to prevent illegal activities like mining of minor minerals, land grabbing, conversion of water bodies and the mushrooming of conduit rackets near block land and land reforms offices across the state.

The move is being seen as an attempt to rein in such practices in rural areas, especially after chief minister Mamata Banerjee and top administrative officials received complaints from residents of various districts. Altogether, there are 341 blocks in the state.

“Each committee will have three members with the block land and land reforms officer (BL&LRO) as convener. The BDO will be the chairman, and the inspector-in-charge or the officer-in-charge of the local police station will be a member of the committee. The committee will meet every Wednesday at the BDO’s office to take cognisance of complaints and act on them,” an administrative official in Malda said.

The order, which was issued by the chief secretary on June 20, mentions specific areas on which the committees should focus to stop illegal activities and corrupt practices.

Among these are early disposal of land mutations and conversion cases, speeding up the distribution of secured land tenures and stopping alienation of tribal land, keeping vigil to stop unscrupulous activities in and around BL&LRO offices, monitoring and supervising mining of sand, stones and extraction of earth and preventing illegal conversion of water bodies.

“There will be similar committees at the sub-divisional level that will have the SDO, SDL&LRO and the SDPO to monitor the activities of the block-level committees. Also, the district magistrates will keep a tab on the entire mechanism at the district level,” the official added.

Over the past few months, the chief minister, while speaking at administrative review meetings, has time and again flagged issues related to corruption in rural areas. In some cases, she has directed immediate police action while in other cases she has ordered certain steps.

A senior Trinamul leader based in Malda said a number of illegal activities had been noticed in the district.

“Even MLAs have complained against local party leaders and elected representatives for indulging in illegal mining of sand from riverbeds. There have been charges of corruption over implementation of the state’s welfare schemes, and some panchayat representatives have even been removed from their posts. It is evident that the state intends to intensify its vigil in the blocks,” Nihar Ranjan Ghosh, the Trinamul MLA of Chanchal, said.      

Political observers said the Trinamul leadership intended to consolidate its support base ahead of next year’s panchayat elections.

“Trinamul wants to send out the message to rural voters that the state government will not tolerate any corruption with regard to land. Also, the party appears to be driving home the point that it would also act against all those involved in such acts, including elected representatives. If the mechanism succeeds, it would surely bring political dividends for the party,” said an observer.

Leaders of the BJP, however, are not ready to buy the theory.     

“It is merely an eye wash as Trinamul leaders are well aware of the grievances that are brewing among people as such corrupt practices have become rampant in the villages. The party now is trying to repair the damage. In Malda itself, a number of leaders of the party are involved in land grabbing and illegal mining of sand and stones. We doubt whether the administration will take any stringent legal steps against them,” said Amlan Bhaduri, a district general secretary of the BJP.

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