West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday handed over 2,000 freehold title deeds to eligible refugee families and assured that all land occupied by such people in the state will be regularised.
No refugee, including Matuas, will be left out of getting freehold deeds for his or her land and not a single refugee family posessing land deed will be evicted, she said. Banerjee had announced in November 2020 that 1.25 lakh freehold title deeds would be given.
The TMC government had taken the decision to regularise refugee lands and handover land deeds apparently to deny political benefits to the BJP, which was hoping to cash in on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to woo the refugees, including the Matuas. Banerjee is vehemently against both NRC and CAA.
"I would like to congratulate you (refugee families). This is your right towards your land. You have finally achieved an address after a long struggle. All the refugee colonies belonging to the state government have been legally regularised and nobody will be evicted from those places. The freehold title deeds for the lands will be distributed from time to time," Banerjee said at the deed distribution programme held at Netaji Indoor Stadium in the city.
The chief minister said that Bengal has formulated a law so that no refugee can be evicted from lands belonging to the Railway and other central governmental organisations. "We have also directed that refugees who are staying on private lands for quite some time will never be evicted," she said and referred to several movements which she had spearheaded in the past.
"Not a single refugee will be left out ... He or she will get unconditional deed for the land. This includes the Matuas. They will also get deeds for their land. We will not allow anybody to evict them. There are several people who have done politics with them," she said in an oblique reference to BJP which courted the community before the Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
The Matuas had migrated to West Bengal from erstwhile East Pakistan about 70 years ago due to religious persecution. There are about three million Matuas in North and South 24 Parganas districts and have considerable influence in at least five Lok Sabha constituecies. She said that three permanent housing projects have been constructed for refugees at Chitmahal in Mekhliganj and in Haldibari and Dinhata in Coochbehar district.
Elaborating on the government action vis a vis distribution of land deeds among the refugees, Banerjee said that land settlements of five mouzas have been done and pattas have been given to 12,000 families at Khasmahal in Paschim Medinipur district. She also stated that over 3.5 lakh families in Bengal have benefitted after the state government handed them "griha" (house) pattas, besides land pattas and agriculture pattas.
The chief minister also referred to the state government's 'Banglar Bari' and 'Chaa Sundari' schemes. Under the 'Banglar Bari' scheme slum dwellers in the city and other municipalities in Bengal will be given a flat each and will provide houses to tea workers in north Bengal under the 'Chaa Sundari' programme.
Residents of most of the refugee colonies in Bengal have already received their freehold title deeds. However, there are some areas in the districts where the distribution is yet to be completed, Banerjee said. Banerjee directed land reform department officials to ensure that work is completed when people approach them and that they do not return emptyhanded. "I will be happy if you do so," she added.
With inputs from PTI.