Activists debunk land bank claims
Ranchi: Two civil rights groups have questioned the state government's claim of having created a land bank of around 20.56 lakh acre, their doubts based on findings of a sample survey their members conducted at a block in Khunti district near Ranchi.
Members of Sajha Kadam and Samajik Sanghat ka Sanyukt Abhiyaan, who presented their findings to the media on Friday, claimed the government had included religious places ( sarna), burial grounds (masna), rivers, nullah, hills and hillocks and roads in its land bank when such areas were categorised as common land.
"At Torpa block, out of 12,408 acre included in the land bank, 7,885.26 acre comprises rivers, rivulets, religious places and so on. This apart, 4,523 acre is forestland. For the field study, we went by the land bank data available on the state government's website and visited each plot to verify specifically," Stan Swamy of Sajha Kadam said.
Among the others present were former chief secretary Shiv Basant, economist Jean Dreze, land rights activist Sanjay Basu, social activist P.P. Verma and tribal leader Pradeep Tirkey.
Swamy, who anchored the Torpa studies over two months, cited a 2011 Supreme Court ruling to stress that land used by villagers were solely owned by gram sabhas and could not be taken over without consent. He pointed out that Khunti was a scheduled area by virtue of which it was covered under the PESA Act-1996 and hence inclusion of its areas in the land bank was unconstitutional.
"Article 244 (1) section 4(2) of PESA Act clearly spells out that any project in a Scheduled Area must first be placed before the Tribal Advisory Council for approval. Instead, the state government promulgated it through an executive order," he said.
Social activist Verma said they were also opposed to the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act and Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act-2013.
"The government has removed the social impact assessment clause and said that any land can be acquired for public projects/purposes. So, tomorrow, the government can take land for building a mall, stating that too is for public purpose," he alleged, adding that formation of a land bank was part of a larger conspiracy of the land bill.
"Torpa is just the tip off the iceberg. Independent studies will show that whatever land the government claims as its own is a farce," he claimed.