Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim of having inherited a huge debt has got enough credence with courts ordering her government to pay Rs 2,000 crore to farmers for land taken from them by previous governments.
The cases of land acquisition date back to 1948 when Prafulla Chandra Ghosh of the Congress, the first chief minister of West Bengal, was at the helm.
As many of the courts, where the farmers moved to get compensation, directed the state government to pay the dues, Mamata, who is in charge of the department of land and land reforms, asked her officials to find out a way out.
But how did it all happen?
The Land Acquisition Act of 1894, promulgated by the British, stipulated that land could be taken only after declaring awards (compensation) for farmers. The farmers might take it or might not take it but the money would be ready.
But in 1948, a year after India got Independence, when the state had to acquire land fast owing to developmental necessities and the state government under Prafulla Chandra Ghosh was facing a severe cash crunch, an Act in the Assembly was passed which enabled the state government to acquire land first and declare the awards later.
Large tracts of land was acquired in this manner till 1994 when the Act was repealed by the Left Front government under Jyoti Basu and land began to be acquired in accordance with the 1894 Act.
“Between 1948 and 1994, huge areas of land was acquired for which farmers were not paid. Both the Congress and the subsequent Left Front governments are to blame for this. Many of these people moved court and we have been slapped with a total bill of Rs 2,000 crore. It is like a bolt from the blue for us. And we don’t know how much land has been acquired in this way, where the government did not pay compensation. In that case the bill can shoot up manifold. We will have to pay for the inefficiency of the previous governments,’’ an official of the land and land reforms department told The Sunday Express.
Trinamool Congress MP