Kolkata: The West Bengal government has decided to distribute land, free of cost, to poor farmers and landless agricultural labourers by buying land from willing landowners, offering them a price which may be higher than the market value. More than two lakh families are likely to be benefited by this step, which is expected to add an important dimension to the sphere of land reforms.
Finance Minister Asim Kumar Dasgupta told The Hinduthat the Land and Land Reforms Department will initiate necessary legal and administrative steps and the matter is likely to be placed before the Legislative Assembly when it commences its session in the third week of June.
He said the acquisition of homestead land (up to a stipulated limit) for distribution among the rural poor who may be occupying that land as homestead, but without any ownership rights, has been a significant component of land reforms.
In order to distribute more land to landless poor farmers, the existing scheme of purchase of land from willing farmers at 10 per cent higher price than the market price, it is proposed to make the scheme more attractive by offering a price which may be up to 25 per cent higher.
In 1980, the State government had covered landless agricultural labourers, rural artisans and fishermen, implementing relevant sections of the Acquisition of Homestead Land Act, 1975.
According to the extant provisions of the Act, those who were in possession of homestead land as on June 26, 1975, were covered. The State government has now decided to implement this Act again for the same category of rural population with reference to December 31, 2009, as the date of possession of homestead land and ownership rights on such homestead land up to five cottas (about 3,500 sq.ft.) would be vested on them. This has already been announced by Mr. Dasgupta in his 2010-11 budget statement.
He said the total agricultural land distributed in the State up to February 28, 2010, is 11.3 lakh acres. Over 30 lakh farmers, of which 55 per cent belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, have benefited from this measure.
“In the alternative policy, redistributive land reform remains the fundamental basis of increasing employment oriented production.”