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Ceiling set for rubber cultivation

Agartala, Feb. 25: The Left Front government yesterday passed the 10th amendment to the Tripura Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill, 2013, fixing the minimum land ceiling for rubber cultivation at 54 acres and banning sale of tea gardens without government approval.

The bill had been tabled in the Assembly in September last year but could not be passed because of vociferous protests from the Opposition and from indigenous people engaged in rubber cultivation. It was subsequently sent to the select committee for discussion and modification.

Former leader of the Opposition and Congress MLA Ratanlal Nath said, “This amendment will badly affect indigenous rubber cultivators, while the ban on the sale of tea gardens will pave the way for governmental interference in private industries and stunt its growth.”

Revenue minister Badal Chowdhury said the amendment had been brought in to protect the land rights of indigenous people, who had been allotted small plots under Right to Forest Act, 2006. “We have allotted 10 acres each to 1.2 lakh families, but some businessman are allegedly taking over the land allotted to a number of people,” he said.

He said the new ceiling would protect the interests of indigenous people and encourage them to take up rubber cultivation. He rued the fact that there was no ceiling earlier though Tripura has been affected by land scarcity.

Chowdhury said, “We have also introduced a system, where if a land purchaser keeps his plot of land without mutation for five years, the land will be taken over by the government.”

He dismissed the Opposition’s criticism as “baseless and motivated by vested interests”, adding it will further secure the land rights of the indigenous people.

Chowdhury said the bill would also prohibit filling up of ponds and lakes without approval of the government, making it a punishable offence. “From now, anyone doing this will have to pay a hefty fine and restore the pond to its earlier condition at their own expense.”