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Arunachal takes land right cue from Rio govt

New Delhi, Jan. 5: Nagaland’s assertion on oil exploration by citing a special constitutional provision on the state has now prompted neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh to seek an amendment to the Constitution for similar rights.

The state wants to explore oil, natural gas, coal and other natural resources on its own — the way Nagaland has staked claim to do by citing Article 371A. This constitutional provision relating to Nagaland includes people’s right to ownership and transfer of land and its resources, a provision absent in Article 371H relating to Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh wants Article 371H amended.

Last year, the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly adopted a private member’s resolution to amend the Constitution. Following up quickly, the state government will shortly send a formal proposal to the ministry of home affairs.

“The state government wants to amend Article 371H for powers on ownership of land and its resources and we will be sending a proposal shortly to the MHA,” Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki told The Telegraph.

“The Arunachal Pradesh government’s move will also not be approved,” said a government source.

Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China, is often in the news for stapled visas handed out to the Arunachalees by Beijing. The state was created in 1987 and has special provisions for it in the Constitution.

The governor of Arunachal Pradesh has special responsibility on law and order and can exercise his individual judgement and his decisions are not to be questioned. However, there is no mention about ownership of land and its resources in the constitutional provisions for the frontier state.

Arunachal’s water resources minister Newlai Tingkhatra said if there are special provisions for Nagaland and Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh cannot be left out.

“We adopted a resolution on exploitation of mineral resources rights under the Constitution like Nagaland and Mizoram are claiming and we are asking the Centre to consider it,” Tingkhatra who hails from Tirap district in eastern Arunachal Pradesh said over phone.

Arunachal claims that oil and natural gas exploration in neighbouring Assam is done from a basin shared by the two states, but Arunachal does not have the rights. According to petroleum ministry figures, there is one oil and gas field each managed by Oil and a private firm in Kharsang.

Tingkhatra said there are reserves in Miao, Bordumsa and Dayuri that the state wants to tap by exercising its right.

A resolution adopted by the Nagaland Assembly in July 2010 to take oil exploration into its own hands was termed “unconstitutional and void” by the home ministry last year. Reasserting itself, the Neiphiu Rio government once again resolved in the Assembly to exercise its “rights” over land and its resources.

Tuki’s government has taken political high ground raising the issue and bringing it to the Assembly before a regional party could take advantage. Tuki also demanded two autonomous district councils — Patkai and Mon — to reach out to indigenous communities in the run-up to the elections.


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