Social Scientist. v 2, no. 14 (Sept 1973) p. 60.


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COMMUNICA TIONS

West Bengal Today

E Madhan Mohan Rao {Social Scientist,M^y 1973) has commendably shown the inaccuracy of a point made by Biplab Dasgupta in his article "West Bengal Today" (Social Scientist, March 1973.) But, besides the inaccurate theoretical aspects of the article pointed out, there still remain factual errors that need correction to avoid almost certain confusion. I propose to deal with one such here.

B Dasgupta writes : "The Marxists advised the landless labourers and poor peasants to take over the land of the rich peasants whenever they were in excess of the maximum limit prescribed by them.59 The facts, as I shall endeavour to show, are otherwise.

There had roughly been the following categories of surplus land over the limit permissible by law in West Bengal : (1) land formally declared surplus by the landholder as required by the law, but which continued to remain in the possession of such landholder who enjoyed its benefits in the absence of any government action; (2) land notified to be surplus by the government with the intention of taking it over, but continued to remain in the possession of its occupier, who obtained injunctions from courts of law ordering maintenance of status quo pending disposal of the dispute; (3) land legally transferred in the name of family members, distant relatives, dependents, employees, household servants and maids, in some cases, elephants and unborn grandchildren;

(4) land recorded with the help of corrupt officials as orchards, fisheries, and the like that are exempted for the purpose of the law.

The law in question is an Act of the Congress Government of West Bengal. The Estate Acquisition Act, passed in 1955 to hoodwink the people, fixed the maximum limit to individual landholding at 25 acres. Apart from providing enough loopholes not to cause any worry to the rich patrons of the Congress party in the countryside, the Act was never implemented. It was in August 1967, with the United Front in office in West Bengal, that a serious effort was made to put the law into effect. From then on till the eve of installation of the second United Front Government in March 1969, 153,178 acres of land was vested in the Government to which was added about 72,000 acres during the first four months of UF rule. Of this about 143,000 acres were cultivable. But, as is well known, governmental efforts were balked by the injunc-



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