100 years on, residents on lease struggle against ‘British rule’ in Patna
In 1915-20, the British, who themselves settled mostly on the banks of the Ganges in Patna, created a number of settlements in the city, called Khas Mahal.Updated: Oct 31, 2020, 08:02 IST
More than 70 years after Independence, a number of Patna residents are still struggling against the British rule, literally.
And as they are about to vote in the assembly elections — their constituencies in Patna are going to polls in the second phase November 3 — they have decided to vote for the party that delivers them freedom from the rule created almost 100 years ago.
In 1915-20, the British, who themselves settled mostly on the banks of the Ganges in Patna, created a number of settlements in the city, called Khas Mahal, where small and big plots were sold on lease to government servants, judges, doctors, big landlords and even political eminences for the purposes of building houses.
The biggest Khas Mahal came up Kadam Kuan, in the heart of Patna, where plots ranging from two katthas to 12 katthas were sold to eminences which included political heavyweights like Anugrah Narayan Sinha, the eminent Congress leader and father of former chief minister Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Sundari Devi, sister of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Jaiprakash Narayan and businessman Bachha Babu, owner of a number of ships that then cruised in the Ganges ferrying people across.
Later, similar but smaller such settlements were created in other areas like Mahendru Mohalla, Chiraiyyatand, Chhajju Bagh and Patna Museum area.
But the land ownership remained with the British government. Though some were given rights of perpetual lease, which continued from one generation to another, most others got land on a lease either for 99 years or for 66 years or 30 years and were obliged to get it renewed before expiry.
In Bihar, there are over 3,700 acres of land under Khas Mahal area, of which 500 acres are in Patna alone.
“The system continued even after Independence. People had paid heavy amount for this land. My grandfather, who was a deputy collector during the British period, along with others, had paid Rs 1,700 -2000 per kattha at the time when gold was available for hardly for Rs 5-6 per 10 grams. Despite this, they were not allowed ownership. More depressing thing is that the ownership is still being denied,” says Rakesh Sharan, a member of the Khas Mahal Citizens Welfare Society from Kadamkuan, which falls into Bankipur Assembly constituency.
The limited ownership means there is always a danger that the lease may not be renewed for various reasons and the “owners” are not free to develop the property into commercial complexes.
“During every election, political parties assure us that the system of lease will be eliminated, but we still have no ownership. This time, we have threatened to boycott polls. Even if we agree to join polling, we will vote only for political party which promises to take action in this direction,” says Sharan.
Rajiv Sharma, vice-president of Khas Mahal Citizen Welfare Society, who lives in Naval Kishore Path, also a part of the Bankipur constituency in Patna, says, “The threat of losing rights of the lease and being ousted from their houses is always there. It’s all because of the system of lease. Renewal has always been a big problem. Though the amount is not big, it’s the system which has made things difficult,” he says.
Also, no commercial use of the property is allowed as it was created by the British rulers purely for residential purposes, he says. “Many of the family members have now shifted to the other cities or are in foreign countries. They want to put the property on rent to some commercial enterprises. Many also want to dispose of the property. But nothing is possible unless the area is turned into freehold,” Sharma says.
No alteration is possible in the old structure created decades ago over the land, he says. “Even if we plan to remodel our wash room, we cannot do so without prior permission of the government because we are the lessee. Do you think getting permission for any kind of construction or any other paper work is easy and smooth in this system? Recently, one of our neighbours lost patience and got created a structure for commercial purposes. Within a few days, the unit was sealed while the family was served notice of cancellation of lease. Now my neighbour who has marriage in her family and needs to get the houses painted, is scared of doing so without government permission,” says Sharma.
More than 10,000 families in the state capital live in these Khas Mahals.
Nitin Naveen, the BJP candidate from Bankipur constituency, said he would definitely try to sort out the issue and take concrete steps in this direction.
A century-old tenancy: What is a Khas Mahal?
It’s a residential township developed by the in 1915-1920 for government servants and eminent personalities of the time.
Khas Mahal enclaves in Patna
The first came up in Kadam Kuan to house officials, judges, doctors and landlords Later, some more were created in Mahendru Mohalla, Chiraiyyatand and Chhajju Bagh.
Elsewhere in the state
Khas Mahal also came up in districts like Munger, Katihar and Purnea.
3,700 acres: Total land in the state under Khas Mahal area
500 acres: Total land in Patna under Khas Mahal area, housing 10,000 families
Leases long and short
Some were given rights of perpetual lease, which continued from one generation to another
Anugrah Narayan Sinha, the first deputy CM of Bihar
Sundari Devi, sister of Lal Bahadur Shastri
Babu Jagjivan Ram
Bachha Babu, owner of a number of small ships use to cruise in the Ganges ferrying people across
Source: Khas Mahal Citizens Welfare Society