New Delhi: The West Bengal government said on Thursday that it would lease out land for free to squatters, whom it described as “the urban poor”. The move is widely seen as an attempt to shore up support for the Left Front months ahead of 83 civic body elections in the state.
Housing concerns: West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
West Bengal would lease out two-three ‘cottahs’ of land for 99 years to people occupying state government-owned land for more than 20 years and earning less than Rs6,000 a month, finance minister Asim Dasgupta said after a meeting of the state cabinet on Thursday. One ‘cottah’ is one-sixtieth of an acre.
The decision would benefit at least 400,000 people, Dasgupta said. Land under 25 municipal bodies could be leased out by the state government. It isn’t, however, immediately known how much land the state government would lease out under the scheme.
Even financial assistance would be given to squatters to build homes under existing funding schemes such as Basic Service for Urban Poor, Integrated Housing and Slum Development Programme, Housing for Urban Poor and Rajiv Awas Yojana.
It was also decided that those building homes on land leased out by the state government cannot sell them for 10 years.
The state’s urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said this is the first scheme of its kind in the country. Though under land reforms West Bengal has been distributing land among the rural poor ever since the Left Front came to power in 1977, it is the first time the state government has offered such largesse to the urban poor.
By leasing out land the state government would enable people to borrow from banks to build homes, Bhattacharya added.