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Bills buried, tenancy land law murmurs far from over

Tribal advisory sub-committee to hear public opinion on changes in CNT, SPT ACTS

By Our Special Correspondent in Ranchi
  • Published 4.01.18
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Ranchi: The move to amend the Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana tenancy Acts, bills of which governor Droupadi Murmu had turned down last year after widespread protests from tribal groups, is rearing its heads again.

The Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) headed by chief minister Raghubar Das has formed a sub-committee to "gather public opinion" on whether the CNT and SPT Acts need amendments on certain key points.

The slant of this exercise is mainly to determine if the clause in the CNT Act involving thana area jurisdiction needs to be revised during land transfer. It is something which many MLAs, irrespective of party affiliations have demanded, as hundreds of new thana areas have sprung up since the Act was constituted in 1908.

Under the CNT Act, only a tribal can purchase or sell land to another tribal belonging to the same thana area with permission from the DC concerned. But, much has changed from 1908 in say Ranchi district under CNT Act, which earlier included Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega and Khunti, and had vast thana areas. If a bigger thana area is bifurcated into smaller police station areas, tribal land buyers and sellers and their natural heirs can face technical difficulties for decades.

The CNT Act is not applicable in Santhal Pargana districts of Dumka, Godda, Pakur, Sahebganj, Jamtara and Deoghar, where the SPT Act (Bihar Tenancy Act of 1885 renamed SPT in 1949) is in force. The SPT Act does not allow any type of land transfer. In Santhal Pargana, land can be leased out or donated free of cost for residential purposes. The commercial use of agriculture land by individual land-owners too is not permitted.

Public opinion will also be taken on whether changes need to be made to facilitate commercial use of tribal land, which had become a thorny issue when the amendment bills were proposed, with Opposition and tribal outfits accusing the government of diluting tribal land rights to please investors.

Though the all-BJP sub-committee led by led by welfare minister Louise Marandi, and with MLAs Menaka Sardar (Potka) and Ram Kumar Pahan (Khijri) and state's former home secretary (now state unit BJP spokesman) J.B. Tubid were supposed to meet in Sahebganj on Wednesday, lack of coordination among them postponed the meeting to Dumka on Friday.

The team is expected to tour the entire Santhal region and the whole state in phases to collect opinions and present a report. "The meeting will now be held in Dumka on Friday. We will tour places (under the purview of the Acts) and gather public opinion on what type of amendments are needed on tenancy laws," minister Louise Marandi said.

"We will speak to social workers, intellectuals, NGOs, public representatives and individuals and submit our report to state government," J.B. Tubid, BJP spokesperson and TAC member.

On why the meeting did not happen on Wednesday, he said he was "busy elsewhere". MLA Sardar said she was busy with the state Assembly's petition committee tour in Giridih MLA Pahan added he received information about the Sahebganj meeting at 10am on Wednesday and could not cancel his other appointments.