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Nexus of investors, political leaders and local administration in secret land deals

By Harasankar Adhikari 

Land is a natural resource that not only provides a foundation for economic and social development, but can also help to empower people to adapt to the challenges of urbanisation and globalisation when managed properly. It also assures social identity along with social and economic security. It is regarded as an economic asset at both the micro and macro levels. Land promotes agriculture in order to provide food for the people.
Land deal is a process through which land is acquired by investors and delivered by the land owners. The acquirer and land owners are the market actors. The history of land deals as well as land grabbing in West Bengal is significant because the formal system of land deals for industrialization defeated the left's rule. But it is unfortunate that the informal system of land deals is in continuous operation everywhere in West Bengal by mutual agreement and rules that are enforced endogenously. It promotes the exchange of land for off-farm economic development and the use of land as collateral in credit markets.
However, this type of land transaction does not contribute to increasing landowner productivity and prosperity. Land rental has an impact on the labour and credit markets. There is a scarcity of data on the consequences of such land deals.
The East Midnapore district of West Bengal has a vast land resource with diverse characteristics. Agriculture and agro-based cultivation (e.g.,. paddy, betel, etc.) are the prime sources of the economy of the people. Now, agriculture is not the driving force of the economy in this area because agriculture is not a profitable sector. After completing high school, the younger population migrates to different parts of India as urban informal labour. It brings economic and social prosperity into their daily lives. The older generation is unable to cultivate their land because of a labour crisis and high labour charges.
As a result, this fertile and double cropping land has been rented to investors for fisheries at a low cost (approximately Rs.10,000-12,000 per annum) for a period of 10-15 years. For this purpose of fisheries, agriculture land has been de-structured as low land. The investors use a variety of chemicals and other substances that pollute the environment. The soil health is affected. Furthermore, it has not created jobs for the locals, and they are not receiving lower-priced fish from these fisheries.
But, if the investors leave the lands to the owners after 10-15 years of renting them out, will they be cultivable again? What would be the future of this land resource?
Following problems might arise –
  1. Due to the de-structuring of land, soil has been left out; how would it be refilled;
  2. It would create a conflict among land owners during land demarcation;
  3. It increases the possibility of flooding due to heavy rainfall and embankment problems in the nearby river.
Because these lands have not been acquired for industrialization, the local administration and government have paid no attention to this matter, and a nexus between investors, political leaders, and local administration exists as a secret deal.

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