Home / Politics / News /  In Bengal, displaced to land a better deal

Kolkata: People in West Bengal who have to give up their land for industries will get a better deal once the state government announces a new policy after the panchayat elections end on 18 May, said a top government official.

The decision comes in the wake of intense local protests over farmland acquisition at Singur, where Tata Motors Ltd is building a facility, and in Nandigram, where the government wanted to set up a chemical hub. The West Bengal government has since been encouraging companies buying land on their own to offer annuity and insurance, besides cash, to those displaced. One company—JSW Steel Ltd—has even offered equity interest to displaced farmers in the steel plant it is building in the state.

“We are likely to suggest a combination of these (annuity, insurance and shares) under the new policy," said Sabyasachi Sen, principal secretary at the state’s commerce and industries department.

The new policy, which is “almost ready", will not, however, replace the much-criticized Land Acquisition Act of 1894, under which the government acquired land in Singur and at other places for industries.

He declined to divulge details till a formal announcement was made at Writers Building, the state’s administrative headquarters. The new incentives will add to the cash compensation paid under the provisions of the 1894 Act.

The government might even set aside small portions of the acquired land to return it to the displaced farmers, who then can use it for commercial purposes through a cooperative, said an official of the commerce and industries department, who did not wish to be named. Sen declined to comment on the matter.

Land prices in Singur have soared in recent times. “Those who have had to sell land (for the plant) there have not benefited from this growth. But those who did not have to are enjoying the benefits. The aim of the new policy is to include those who have lost land in this growth," said Sen.

The government now admits that at least 50% of the 997 acres it acquired in Singur yielded more than one crop, though two years ago it had calculated differently. “Half of the land was good," said Sen.

The new policy will be similar to Jharkhand’s proposed rehabilitation policy, said a person close to the development. Although the Jharkhand government is yet to announce the policy, it has indicated that it plans to make it mandatory for firms acquiring land to offer free plots and monthly income to farmers giving up their land, besides cash paid at the time of acquisition.

West Bengal is set to make a series of land acquisitions. Writers Building has already issued a notification under the 1894 Act to acquire 1,100 acres in Purulia for a steel plant.

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