The fresh spell of violence in Bangladesh has led to a steep increase in real estate prices in West Bengal, with people from the neighbouring country buying land in the eastern state of India.
A leader of Bengal's ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), feels this is a “phenomenon the last few generations have never seen”.
“Many are buying land to settle here in future. This is happening in areas such as Duttapukur, Habra, Basirhat and Bongaon (in North 24-Parganas district). Bongaon is a small town. Now, it has very few empty plots left,” said Shankar Adda, a TMC leader.
A house built on less than two cottahs — one cottah is equal to 727 sq ft — in Bongaon, a town about 100km from state capital Kolkata, used to cost around Rs 11 lakh in the early part of 2013. Now, the same property costs around Rs 35 lakh.
These days, land prices in semi-urban areas near the border in North 24-Parganas district vary between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 10 lakh per cottah, more than twice the price a year ago. Even rural areas have seen a sharp increase.
If TMC leaders are to be believed, the spate of bloody clashes in Bangladesh, especially during the recently held elections, may result in another exodus of the Hindu minority. The turmoil in the neighbouring country has even drawn the Bharatiya Janata Party’s attention. Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, has expressed concerns over the “post-election violence... attacking the minority Hindu community”.
After Independence, Bengal was overwhelmed by the footfall of people from Bangladesh — then East Pakistan — who fled the country in the face of riots. A large number of Bengal residents have their roots on the other side of the border.
“People from Bangladesh are buying land and many are even coming here. In some cases, they are procuring certificates from elected representatives. All this is pushing up land prices,” said Jyotipriyo Mullick, the Bengal food minister and TMC observer for North 24-Parganas district.
It is learnt that land is being bought with the help of relatives and friends, or even touts, in India. "Bangladeshi buyers have little idea of land prices here. Relatives are buying plots for them and keeping a margin for themselves,” said Sanjay Das, a Bongaon-based land broker.
“There is another factor driving the prices. Many locals are also buying plots believing they will be able to sell it at a premium rate,” he added.
Prices of shops and godowns are also on the rise. “Small commercial properties are in growing demand not only in towns but also in panchayat areas near the border,” said Somen Ghosh, a Bongaon resident and a small-time land dealer.