KOLKATA, 4 APRIL: Sixty-three-year old Puspo Dewri, had to give up her three-cottah land and a pukka house in return of half-a-cottah and Rs 5,000 for the road to New Town in Jatragatchi. But what peeves her more is that her young daughter-in-law has to use the toilet, which has no door, in presence of peeping toms. This election, she would vote after almost 15 years, for a couple of more tube wells and doors in the toilet.
The residents of the rehabilitation colonies ~ Nandan Nagar in Jatragatchi Mouza, a colony of 33 houses in Nawabpur, Rakjuani Mouza, and colonies in Nootanpalli and Tarulia ~ in Rajarhat have left hopes to see the state housing minister Mr Gautam Deb’s eight-point rehabilitation package for the landlosers in Rajarhat-New Town to be implemented. “No more false promises. We don’t want this government anymore. I have been running since 25 March, 1971 and I am tired. I just want my grandchildren to live like humans and not pests,” said Mr Monindra Nath Mistry, who settled on a four-cottah land beside the Jatragatchi canal in Rajarhat to escape the Pakistani army’s genocidal crackdown on Bangladeshis.
“We have been given half-a-cottah each with no houses. While a Muslim colony just on the other side on the bheri has pukka structures made with proper toilets. Let them have Muslim votes, they will have to part with ours,” said 72-year-old Mr Nikhil Mistry, who lives under a tarpaulin sheet beside the land he was allotted. His son is handicapped and could not build the house. “They have given us possession papers but no patta. We cannot register the land. What if tomorrow they bulldoze our houses?” he added.
Interestingly, the land given for rehabilitation is so low that a little rain is enough to inundate the houses. There is no drainage facility. In Nawabpur, the colony is set up just beside a 100-feet-deep water body cut six years ago. “Years ago, there was a canal and several smaller wate r bodies to drain excess water during rains. But they were filled for the township and a new bheri was cut. It spills every now and then flooding our houses,” said Mr Meher Ali, a farmer who lost five bighas of land. Twice they had to shift to the Nawabpur Primary School building as water washed away their houses. The 300 families in Nandan Nagar depend on a single tubewell for drinking water and at least 100 depend on a single toilet without doors. The chambers fill in a month’s time and the residents have to pool in money to clean it themselves.
Women go to townships to work as domestic help, however, have to face competition from those coming to work from Sunderbans as they work on less pay.
“Two years ago, 15-16 people got job cards from the panchayat office but there has been no work. I once asked for work but panchayat officials told me to dig land. How can women do such work?” asks Mrs Sunita Pal, who works as a domestic help.
“There has been unequal land distribution. People were promised Rs 55,000 but were given only Rs 5,000. Panchayat cannot work here because of Hidco. The government has cheated us,” said Mr Shantanu Majumdar, a daily wager in Nandan Nagar.