Kolkata: Amid the BJP's assertion to implement NRC in West Bengal and the likelihood of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill being placed in Parliament, state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced that attempts would be made to regularise all refugee colonies on central government and private lands.
The displaced people will also be given land rights by the Trinamool Congress government, Banerjee said.
The decision was taken apparently to take the wind away from the BJP's sails, as the saffron camp was hoping to cash in on passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which will be tabled in the ongoing winter session of Parliament.
"We have decided to regularise all the refugee settlements, solely because it has been a long time now - nearly 50 years. Since (March) 1971, they have not received any land possession," she said.
The state government had earlier regularized 94 refugee colonies which were on state government land, the CM said after a Cabinet meeting.
"There are several refugee colonies on land owned by the central government and private parties. We have been asking them for a long time to regularise these refugee colonies and provide them with land possession. However, they have been sending eviction notices," Banerjee said.
"Those who are staying in refugee colonies for a long time do not have any right. So we thought they should get the rights as citizens of this country. They may be voting in elections, may be working here, but don't have proper land rights," she said.
Over 13,000 and 12,000 families staying on land owned by the state and central governments respectively would be benefitted by the decision, the chief minister said.
Banerjee also announced that the cabinet decided to form a new SC&ST Development Commission for the development of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes people in the state.
"A Bill to form the commission will be passed soon at the state assembly," she said.
A section of the refugees in West Bengal belongs to the Scheduled Castes.
The decisions came in the backdrop of the Centre's announcement that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process would be carried out across the country.
Banerjee has been vehemently opposing the NRC and the CAB. Alleging that the TMC is protecting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh as they are the party's votebank, BJP leaders have asserted that NRC would be implemented in the state.
There was panic among a section of the people in the state following the publication of updated final NRC in the BJP-ruled Assam on August 31, that left out 19.6 lakh people, and around 12 lakh of whom are reportedly Hindus. At least 11 people have committed suicide in West Bengal due to the panic over NRC implementation.
During the 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh, millions of people had fled the country and moved to India, especially West Bengal and the northeastern region.
West Bengal has a huge refugee population in border districts such as North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Uttar Dinajpur, Coochbehar and Malda. The refugees, who hold sway in a number of seats in these districts are being wooed by all the political parties in the state.
The CAB is expected to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament which began on Monday.
The bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India even if they do not possess any document.
The previous CAB had lapsed as it was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha after being passed by Lok Sabha on January 8.