Thika land transferred to municipal wing
The control of thika land in Bengal has been transferred to the urban development and municipal affairs department from the land and land reforms department which had been vested with the responsibility since the Independence.
The decision has prompted a section of bureaucrats to wonder whether the urban development and municipal affairs department has the administrative and legal expertise to protect the precious plots from land sharks.
Several big slums in south and north Calcutta and Howrah are located on the thika land, which the government had acquired from zamindars after the Independence. However, the government had allowed tenants to continue to occupy the thika land as tenants.
In Calcutta, there are about 2,000 acres of thika land and most of the plots are in prime locations like Chetla, Bhowanipore, Kalighat, Hatibagan and Shyambazar. Howrah, on the other side of the river, has a total of 517 acres of thika land.
Senior bureaucrats said they were worried because the land and land affairs department was successfully defending several cases where some promoters claimed that they were the owners of several such plots.
“The land and land reforms department had been handling the matter for years since the Independence and it has expertise on this matter. Now, the responsibility for the plots has been given to the urban development and municipal affairs department, which has no expertise on land-related issues.... So, questions are being raised over the future of the plots,” said a senior bureaucrat.
He pointed out that defending the court cases was very important as they involved the fate of several poor people.
“If the government loses the cases, the thika tenants could be evicted from the plots,” said a senior official.
Sources in the government said it was still not clear why the responsibility of the thika plots was given to the urban development and municipal affairs department helmed by Firhad Hakim, who is also the mayor of Calcutta.
“It remains to be seen how the urban development and municipal affairs department handles these cases,” said a bureaucrat.
A source explained why the land department was more equipped to handle the thika land.
“The officials of the department had been handling land-related issues for years.... Furthermore, the law officers of the department are specially trained to deal with land-related issues. On the other hand, the urban development and municipal affairs department used to depend on the land and land reforms department whenever issues related to land come up,” explained a source.
Although no one agreed to comment on record, a section of the officials said the primary idea was that as fresh construction was allowed on the thika land through a 2019 amendment, the urban development and municipal affairs department may be the department that could take care of the developments which would be carried out by the tenants.