The Malda district administration will survey the patches of dry beds or islets that have come up on the Ganga river near Jharkhand on its right bank.
The decision was made at a meeting here on Wednesday.
Over the years, Ganga has been eroding chunks of land in Malda district, which is on the left bank, and also in some areas of Murshidabad, on the right.
“Simultaneously, dry patches of land or islets, commonly known as char have come up close to the right bank of the river, close to Jharkhand. A number of erosion victims, who lost their land in erosion, have settled in these islets. It was a longstanding demand of the islet dwellers that they get all necessary services and benefits like any other resident of Bengal,” said Tarikul Islam, a representative of the Ganga Bhangan Action Pratirodh Committee (GBPAC).
According to him, 30 such islets have come up in the Kaliachak-II block. Around 2.5 lakh people live on around six islets. Farming is carried out in the rest.
Sources in the administration said KB Jhaubona, a locality in Kaliachak-II, submerged in the Ganga. In due course, it emerged as an islet.
The dwellers, when contacted, said they do not get benefits from the Bengal government.
“As the islets are closer to Rajmahal in Jharkhand, the Bengal government did not take much interest.... Many of us have a voter or an Aadhaar card issued where our locality has been shown as a part of Jharkhand. This is not correct. We are residents of Bengal according to old land records,” said Badiruddin Sheikh, who resides in one such islet.
Malda DM Nitin Singhania said that on May 4 this year, chief minister Mamata Banerjee at a review meeting had instructed them to look into the issue.
“According to the chief minister’s directive, a survey would be conducted to gather details about these islets and the dwellers. If required, the issue would be taken up with the Jharkhand government too,” said Singhania.
Islam, the GBPAC representative, said the dwellers of the islets speak in Bengali.
“Their demand is valid. They do not have a high school, proper hospital, or college in these islands,” he said.
Sources in the administration said the state sought information from the district administration on the survey.
“We were asked to inform how many government employees would be required for the survey and a tentative budget,” said an official.
Mosarekul Anwar, an activist of Calcutta-based Jana Andolan, who was present at the meeting, said he welcomed the survey. "But at the same time, inhabitants of these islets should be considered as residents of Bengal and get land rights,” said Anwar.