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The forgotten south

Mollah and thousands of average farmers across South Bengal are confronted with the prospect of a drought stricken year.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2006 15:39 IST

West Bengal is a water surplus state. It is also a rare power surplus state.
Try telling this to Kamran Mollah, a small farmer in Nadia district.

With sum mers here, he has no water to irrigate his fields. Erratic power supply has added to his woes. Mollah and thousands of average farmers across South Bengal are confronted with the prospect of a drought stricken year.

The farmers still have good words for the Leftists -- the land reforms have not been forgotten. But time has stood still in most Bengal villages since the Barga revolution. And the discontent is sharper now because of the perception that development in and around Kolkata has meant rural areas being ignored.

There is also fresh fear among farmers that the government will acquire their land to build townships. The Opposition has plied the farmers with propaganda on how fertile lands were acquired by the government in Rajarhat and Howrah to build townships.

The propaganda has a ring of truth. The government did buy the land at very low rates, even promised employment to a member from each family in the new industries and townships that would come up there. "None of these promises have been kept," says Naba Datta of Nagarik Mancha, which works for industrial workers.

The CM seems aware of the problem. A couple of days back, he promised farmers that only fallow land would be acquired and they would get a good price for it.