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Protest over land reforms in Tripura

- Opposition stages sit-in

Agartala, Nov. 24: The Opposition Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) today staged a sit-in to protest against the 10th amendment of the Tripura Land Reforms and Land Revenue Act, 1960.

The Autonomous District Council for tribals is protesting against the proposed amendment, which is now with the select committee of the state Assembly.

Following the council’s written objection to various provisions of the act affecting interest of the indigenous people, revenue minister Badal Chowdhury assured council’s chief executive member Ranjit Debbarma that all its grievances over the amendment would be addressed.

“For the first time in state’s history a large number of people have formally recorded their objections to the amendment by addressing letters to the select committee. Altogether, 1,184 people and 40 organisations, including indigenous people and political parties, have filed their objections till November 20,” said former leader of the Opposition and Congress MLA Ratanlal Nath.

The indigenous people and political parties are protesting the equivalence between hitherto unproductive tilla (elevated) land and productive lunga or plain and valley land that this proposed amendment would bring.

“According to the pre-amendment position, three (41,840 square feet) of tilla land was equivalent to one kani (17,280 square feet) of lunga (plain or valley land). In the new definition, there is no difference between tilla and lunga land. This is going to adversely affect the rubber cultivation by the indigenous people,” Nath said.

Regarding the amendment on the tea garden land, Nath said the proposal to ban rubber cultivation on surplus tea garden land was welcome for preserving the tea industry in the state but there was another provision “which is anti-people”.

“The amendment provides for vesting in the government any private land, including tea garden land lying unused for five years or more. This will create a domino’s effect on land ownership,” said Nath.

He added that there was a problem in land owned by the indigenous people as recorded on Schedule-B of the act.

Many lands under the Schedule-B have been traditionally been compact areas dominated by the non-indigenous people.

“There is an entire village called Tulabagan in Mohanpur constituency in which there is no indigenous family but it forms part of the Schedule-B of the act. Similarly, there is Purba Noagaon village in the same constituency, which is dominated by indigenous people but it is out of the Schedule-B,” Nath said.

There is a demand for a special drive across the state to demarcate and identify villages, tehshils and mouzas.

“The state government has increased the number of districts and subdivisions but the number of tehshils and mouzas have remained the same. There are altogether 187 tehshils in the state of which only 42 fall under the Schedule-B of the act. There are 886 revenue mouzas of which only 137 fall under the act. The number of should be increased drastically and a comprehensive land survey should be undertaken for an effective and early solution to this problem,” Nath said.

The revenue department joint secretary, A.K Gope, however, refused to comment on the issue.

“All that I can say is that the issue is with the select committee of the state Assembly. We have tried to amend the act in peoples’ interest. Commenting on this is beyond my jurisdiction,” he said.