During the Bengal famine of 1943 the Communist Party of India provided relief to the peasantry of the Sundarbans area. In September 1946 Bangiya Pradeshik Kisan Sabha decided to launch the Tebhaga movement. The peasant movement broke out in Kakdwip, Sonarpur, Bhangar and Canning. Kakdwip and Namkhana were the storm centres of the movement. The movement aimed at improving the share of the peasant engaged as sharecroppers. The prominent leaders of the movement were: Kansari Halder, Ashoke Bose and Rash Behari Ghosh. Peasant leaders like Gajen Malik, Manik Hazra, Jatin Maity, Bijoy Mondal and others rose to prominence. The movement continued till 1950, when the Bargadari Act was enacted. The Act recognised the right of the sharecropper to two-thirds of the produce when he provided the inputs.
Although the Bargadari Act of 1950 recognised the rights of bargadars to a higher share of crops from the land that they tilled, it was not implemented. Large tracts, beyond the prescribed limit of land ceiling, remained with the rich landlords. In 1967, West Bengal witnessed a peasant uprising, against non-implementation of land reforms legislation, starting from Kheyadaha gram panchayat in Sonarpur CD Block. From 1977 onwards major land reforms took place in West Bengal under the Left Front government. Land in excess of land ceiling was acquired and distributed amongst the peasants. Subsequently, “Operation Barga” was aimed at securing tenancy rights for the peasants. In Namkhana CD Block 6,388.12 acres of land was acquired and vested. Out of this 5,757.18 acres or 84.19% of the vested land was distributed amongst the peasants. The total number of patta holders was 15,193.
Namkhana is located at 21°46′00″N 88°14′00″E.
Namkhana CD Block is bounded by Kakdwip CD Block in the north, Patharpratima CD Block and Sundarbans forests in the east, Bay of Bengal in the south and Sagar CD Block, across the Muri Ganga, in the west.
It is located 93 km from Alipore, the district headquarters.
Namkhana CD Block has an area of 370.61 km2. Namkhana and Dholarhat police stations serve this CD Block. Namkhana panchayat samity has 7 gram panchayats. The block has 38 inhabited villages. Headquarters of this block is at Namkhana.
The Sundarbans area, in the south of the district, includes 102 deltaic islands, out of which 54 are inhabited and the rest is reserved forest. The area spread over 54,000 km2 is home to 3.9 million people or around 40% of the population of the district. As per December 2001 census there were 271 Royal Bengal tigers and other animals in the Indian portion of the Sundarban forest, spread across 42,000 km2. The floor of the Sunderbans varies from 0.9 m to 2.11 m above sea level. Tidal saline water from the Bay of Bengal alternatively drowns and exposes the islands twice a day throughout the year. Around 3,500 km of earthen embankments, protecting the inhabited islands, have been facing the daily onslaught in a cyclone-prone area for more than a century. Clearing of the forests effectively started in 1781 and in about a century Hingalganj, Hasnabad, Sandeshkhali I and II, Minakhan, Haroa (all in North 24 Parganas district in 2016) Canning I and II, Jaynagar I and II, Mathurapur I and II, and Sagar (all in South 24 Parganas district in 2016) had been fully or substantially cleared of forests. Thereafter, much of the interiors of Kakdwip, Patharpratima, Basanti, Kultali and Gosaba were cleared for human settlement. People started moving in to the area. The refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan were the last to come in large numbers between 1951 and 1971. Canning I and II, Jaynagar I and II, Mathurapur I and II, Kakdwip and Namkhana are a little away from the forests and being attached/ connected to the mainland their conditions are similar to other mainland blocks in the district, but Basanti, Gosaba, Kultali, Patharpratima and Sagar are largely isolated from the mainland. These islands are mostly separated from the deep forest by a river. Electric connections are rare, and transport and communications, other than river transport, are not there. Around 95% people depend on rain-fed agriculture. Sagar lies at the mouth of the Hooghly, which carries fresh water and so things are a little different there. The sea level, around India, is estimated to be rising at 2.55 mm per year. In the last 70 years, 220 km2 of forest land has been submerged and the process continues.
Gram panchayats of Namkhana block/panchayat samiti are: Budgakhali, Fraserganj, Haripur, Mousuni, Namkhana, Narayanpur and Shibrampur.
As per 2011 Census of India Namkhana CD Block had a total population of 182,830, all of which were rural. There were 93,351 (51%) males and 89,479 (49%) females. Population below 6 years was 21,701. Scheduled Castes numbered 47,260 and Scheduled Tribes numbered 741.
As per 2001 census, Namkhana block had a total population of 160,630, out of which 82,234 were males and 78,396 were females. Namkhana block registered a population growth of 19,56 per cent during the 1991-2001 decade. Decadal growth for South 24 Parganas district was 20.89 per cent. Decadal growth in West Bengal was 17.84 per cent. Scheduled castes at 43,591 formed around one-fourth the population. Scheduled tribes numbered 1,466.
Shibnagar Abad is the large villages in Namkhana CD Block (2011 census figures in brackets): Budhakhali (5,195), Bisalakshmipur (7,439), Phatikpur (5,888), Rajnagar Srinathgram (8,293), Ganesnagar (6,635), Narayanpur (12,201), Namkhana (7,058), Debnagar (6,582), Sibnagar Abad (10,998), Dwariknagar (7,733), Uttar Chandanpiri (4,751), Dakshin Chandanpiri (4,129), Sibrampur (7,358), Rajnagar (5,055), Dakshin Chandranagar (5,719), Radhanagar (5,292), Dakshin Durgapur (5,439), Baliara (8,672), Patibania (6,987), Shibpur (6,269), Haripur (7,842), Bijaybati (4,891), Amrabati (6,675), Bagdanga (4,160) and Kusumtala (5,663).
As per 2011 census the total number of literates in Namkhana CD Block was 138,117 (85.71% of the population over 6 years) out of which 75,314 (55%) were males and 62,803 (45%) were females.
As per 2011 census, literacy in South 24 Parganas district was 77.51 Literacy in West Bengal was 77.08% in 2011. Literacy in India in 2011 was 74.04%.
As per 2001 census, Namkhana block had a total literacy of 78.40 per cent for the 6+ age group. While male literacy was 88.64 per cent female literacy was 67.63 per cent. South 24 Parganas district had a total literacy of 69.45 per cent, male literacy being 79.19 per cent and female literacy being 59.01 per cent.
See also – List of West Bengal districts ranked by literacy rate
Bengali is the local language in these areas.
In the 2011 census Hindus numbered 157,185 and formed 85.97% of the population in Namkhana CD Block. Muslims numbered 25,638 and formed 13.88% of the population. Others numbered 277 and formed 0.15% of the population.
In the 2011 census, Hindus numbered 5,155,545 and formed 63.17% of the population in South 24 Parganas district. Muslims numbered 2,903,075 and formed 35.57% of the population. In West Bengal Hindus numbered 64,385,546 and formed 70.53% of the population. Muslims numbered 24,654,825 and formed 27.01% of the population.
According to the South 24 Parganas district Human Development Report, it is an overwhelmingly rural district with 85% of the population living in rural areas. An analysis of the district’s population shows that 33 percent of the district’s population belongs to Scheduled Castes. While 65.86% of people are Hindus, 33.24% are Muslims. 86% of the population resided in the 29 CD Blocks. In 2005, more than 4 lakh households were identified as living below poverty line, pushing the poverty ratio in the district to 34.11%, way above the state and national poverty ratios.
Namkhana CD Block had a poverty ratio of 48.17% of the households in 2005. The Sundarbans region in general is afflicted with poverty with all the 13 CD Blocks recording above 30% and 8 CD Blocks recording more than 40% households in the BPL category.
In standard of living Namkhana had a rank of 26 amongst all the 29 blocks. In infrastructure development it was 25th amongst all CD Blocks. In Namkhana, 5.80% households had access to electricity. The length of surfaced roads was 0.31 km per km2 area. The number of bank branches was 0.27 per 10,000 population. Lack of access to irrigation is a major problem for most of the CD Blocks in South 24 Parganas, but it assumes particular significance in the Sundarbans area, where there is limited scope for employment beyond the agricultural sector. In Namkhana, 58.54% of rural households were engaged as daily/ agricultural/ other physical labour, 28.64% were cultivators, 5.42% were self-employed rural artisans/ hawkers, 8.87% were engaged in labour oriented regular jobs in the unorganised sector, and 8.52% were engaged in the organised sector or work as professionals.
As per 1991 census, while male literacy rate was 77.89% female literacy was 45.30% and there was a gender gap of 31.09% in Namkhana. In 2006, Namkhana had 22 secondary and higher secondary schools. All of them had library facility but only 4 of them had computer facilities.
In 2006, in Namkhana for 37 villages there were 37 health sub-centres and 5 rural hospital/public health centres having 43 beds with 10 medical officers, 8 nurses, 43 health assistants and 8 pharmacists and technicians. 42.9% of the 177 habitations in Namkhana CD Block were fully covered with safe drinking water (including tube wells and tap water), 51.4% habitations were partly covered and 5.6% habitations were not covered.
Namkhana has 264 km of embankments. Breaches in these embankments varied from 6.09 km in 2006-07 to 7.2 km in 2004-05. Embankments raised along rivers are of critical importance for the safety of lives and protection of crops, against daily tides and tidal surges. Technologically the embankment structures are weak and there is need of proper drainage of accumulated rain water through sluice gates. Crude cuts in embankments for drainage of accumulated rain water and channels built for providing water to large fisheries (bheris) also add to the hazards. Cyclones and tropical depressions are regular threats.
National Highway 117 passes through Namkhana. Namkhana is located at a distance of about 80 km from Kolkata. It is also very close to Bakkhali which also happens to be a quaint little town by the sea.
There is no bridge across the Hatania Doania creek at Namkhana. Four-wheelers are driven on to a ferry, which carries them across the creek.
Namkhana is linked to Sealdah by the Sealdah-Namkhana Line, via Lakshmikantapur and Kakdwip.