West Bengal Govt. must ensure fair compensation and rehabilitation to all dalit families in West Parganas, prior to land acquisition for road construction

2 March 2021: The Govt. of West Bengal has acquired 43 acres of land in Samsernagar, West 24 Parganas, to initiate construction of concrete roads on the banks of river Kalindi near Bangladesh border, as part of a flood management scheme executed by the Irrigation and Waterways Department as a response to the destruction caused by cyclone Alia in 2009. 

The land acquired belongs to 140 Dalit Poundra families, a vast majority of whom are below the poverty line. The acquisition deprives them of semi-permanent homes, water bodies, small agricultural lands, and other farming areas. The families, which suffered immense losses in the cyclone, are dependent on the Sunderban forests for their daily sustenance. Their meagre incomes are from single season rice farming, apiculture, selling crabs, and daily wage labour.

While the people impacted acknowledge the need for the road, they draw attention to the fact that the government has not provided any just rehabilitation since 2009,  and the impetus to construct the new road is due to the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. They have been protesting against the lack of transparency in the acquisition of the land, and against the reported threats received from the panchayat, which serves larger political motives. 

The Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 mandates that the government should provide adequate compensation to all affected parties when land is acquired for construction activities that are for common good. This calls for transparency in the acquisition process and ensures that the affected community is compensated justly. 

However, in the current instance, it has been claimed that the amount allotted per family, Rs 8,000, is blatantly insufficient to compensate for the loss of land, shelter and livelihood and to enable them to restart their lives. It amounts to injustice and a violation of the provisions of the 2013 Act. The people also claim the market rate for the land is close to Rs. 3-4 lakhs. Recently, on 18th February, several houses were destroyed to kickstart construction work, also leading to an intensification of the protests. 

NAPM condemns the West Bengal’s Govt’s violation of human rights of a community already marginalized, and the failure to provide just compensation for their losses, in the terms prescribed by the LARR Act, 2013. We support people’s demand that construction activities must temporarily halt, until the state government ensures fair compensation and rehabilitation of the affected households.  

NAPM India