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Outcry over land reforms
- INPT, Tripura planters seek revocation of amendment

Agartala, Nov. 23: The Opposition Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) and the managements of all 53 functional tea estates in the state have opposed the state government’s 10th amendment to the Tripura Land Reforms and Land Revenue Act.

While the tea planters have opposed the amendment on the ground that it will vest in government the surplus or uncultivated land in the tea gardens, the INPT is worried that it will affect the land rights of the indigenous people.

INPT leaders have been staging a sit-in over the past two days in Agartala to press for revocation of the amendment.

The amendment proposal was placed in the autumn session of the Assembly in September this year.

It puts a ban on rubber cultivation on surplus land allotted to tea gardens and reduces the quantum of land that can be owned by individual land holders without crossing the ceiling limit.

“The trouble is that the proposed amendment will put unproductive tilla (elevated) land and cultivable land on a par. The present status is that while calculating ceiling limit, the quantum of tilla land is of lesser value and is allowed to be owned more in terms of ratio of plain land or cultivable land. This will affect land holdings of indigenous people who live mostly on tilla land in the interior areas of the state,” said INPT general secretary Jagadish Debbarma.

However, minister for finance and revenue Badal Chowdhury dismissed the INPT’s fears as baseless.

“The amendment was tabled in the Assembly and it is now with the select committee for detailed study and analysis; as chairman of the select committee, I can only say that by this amendment we have banned rubber cultivation on surplus land allotted to tea gardens. This is because of protest from tea garden workers who fear job loss once green signal for rubber cultivation is given. The land already under tea cover is not going to be affected in anyway,” he said.

“During the past six decades, the character of land has changed drastically. Earlier, the ratio of tilla and plain land allowed to be owned by landholders was 2:1. But this has become untenable now. Ordinary indigenous families will not be affected but a number of joint families that broke up have not got their land holdings registered separately. They will have to do the registration to avoid ceiling law. It should not pose a problem,” said Chowdhury.

He said the INPT’s point that the amendment will prevent rubber cultivation on land allotted to 1.20 lakh indigenous families was not correct.

“Rubber cultivation in forest land will be determined by forest laws, we have nothing to do with this. The forest department can allow or disallow rubber cultivation on forest land allotted to indigenous people,” he said, seeking to allay fears of INPT and tea planters.

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