by Anushree Ghosh
Thika Tenancy and the new amendments
Before 1949, “Thika Tenancy” existed in Calcutta and Howrah region of West Bengal. In this system of tenancy, the landlord would give away a piece of land to a tenant with the right to develop a temporary structure “Kachcha Ghar”, which can be further rented out by the tenant. Also, the tenant could grant a lease of any part of the structure. Here, the tenant was known as the “Thika Tenant” and the subtenant was called “Bharatia”. This unorganised system was regulated by the Calcutta Thika Tenancy Act, 1949.
Until 1948, Thika Tenancy came under “The Transfer of Property Act, 1882 – it defined the roles and responsibilities of the landlords and Thika Tenants. The provisions of The Transfer of Property Act, 1882 governed the right and liabilities of Landlords and their Thika Tenants. The Calcutta Thika Tenancy Ordinance XI was announced in 1948. Section 2 of the Ordinance defined a Thika Tenant as:
“Any person who held land under another person whether under a written lease or otherwise and was, or but for a special contract would be, liable to pay rent at a monthly or any other periodical rate, for that land to such other person and had erected any structure on such land and was entitled to use it for residential purposes or for manufacturing or business purposes and included the successors in interest of such person.”
The act was made to secure the rights of the tenants and avert their random eviction. But the misleading definition provided in the act gave rise to myriad confusions, it did not specify the rights of the tenants. The new law was a futile effort in transforming the scenario into an organised one. Thus, the law was amended in 1953 which came into force on 4th March 1953, the law provided benefit to the tenant who received the structure on land for any valid purpose. More amendments were made in 1969, 1981, 1993, 2001—this included the right of a tenant to build the pukka structure, liability of the tenant to pay rent, erection of pukka structure making the Thika tenancy act invalid and annulling the act of 1981
Recently, the State Urban Development Department in Kolkata began to locate the issues faced in reference to the act. After the abolition of the zamindari system, the lands belonged to the State. The state claims that there are 2-15 Bharatiyas under each tenant, but these are only as per the records; the actual number can easily surpass an unimaginative figure. Regarding this discrepancy in the actual figure and recorded figure, the state officials may undertake a survey to determine the actual number of Thika Tenant and Bharatiya. The new amendment allows the government to take the necessary steps for updating the data. The map will be in public domain for some time to deal with the objections, thereafter, the map will be finalised.
The government will check if it is occupied authentically or sprouted with unauthorised claimants who are sub-tenants and reside under the pretext of being Thika Tenants. But, the government may consider some cases on humanitarian grounds as well.