An amendment passed by the ruling BJP in the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly last week to the Chhattisgarh Land Revenue Code has generated controversy with activists and the Opposition accusing the government of attempting to usurp tribal land.
State Cabinet ministers on Thursday said that misinformation was being spread about the amendment and tribal land would only be purchased for government purpose.
Minister Prem Prakash Pandey said at a press conference, “I want to make it clear that no private parties can buy land and only the government can do it for the public. The opposition is purposely trying to distort issues. This is not in contravention of any central laws and will help in development — such as the widening of highways.”
Last week, the government had passed an amendment to Section 165 of the Land Code Bill which ensures that the state can buy land owned by tribals with their consent. This is a change from the earlier provisions of the Bill which stated that no land belonging to tribals could be bought or sold, said activists familiar with these laws.
Under the existing provisions of the Bill, if land was needed to be bought it was done under a process where the contours had been set by central laws such as the Land Acquisition Bill and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act.
Alok Shukla, president of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, an organisation that works for land rights said, “Earlier, in the state law there was a stop to any buying and selling of land belonging to adivasis. These transactions were conducted under central laws which have checks and balances. With this amendment, those will no longer apply and this is a move towards putting tribal land in the open market.”
Shukla said that any land transactions in schedule 5 areas under central laws need consent from the gram sabha. “The idea is that any selling of land affects not only the immediate seller, but also the village. Under the new amendment, any individual can be coerced into giving up his land and there will be no stopping it. Also, the Land Acquisition Bill requires rehabilitation and social impact assessment. Again these will be bypassed,” Shukla said.