The Jharkhand government Wednesday clarified that the proposed amendments in the Chhotanagapur Tenancy Act (CNTA) and Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act (SPTA) were in favour of the land owners and were, in no way, designed to harm the interests of the tribal land owners. On the other hand, top officials claimed, these changes would only bring economic prosperity to the land owners.
The move comes a day after BJP legislators held a meeting on the party forum where senior leaders asked to express their reservations regarding the overall issue of land acquisition, including their apprehensions regarding proposed changes in the CNTA and SPTA. In July, the state government had sent an ordinance for the proposed amendments to the Governor. The same was forwarded to the President. As of now, officials said that the process of getting the opinion of all stake-holders concerned is still ongoing.
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Holding a press conference with other officials, Principal Secretary (Personnel and Administrative Reforms) and also Jharkhand government spokesperson Nidhi Khare said: “The clarification on the proposed amendments was necessary as we did not want the people of Jharkhand to remain under any sort of misconception. There are many people feeding misrepresentations of the actual fact.”
“The proposed amendments mainly pertain to allowing freedom to the tribal land owners to use their land for non-agricultural purposes also. These are aimed at making them economically strong and also spare them the constant threat of being declared illegal, if they indulge in any such activities,” Khare told The Indian Express.
Further, the proposed amendments aim to stop the Scheduled Areas Regulation (SAR) Ordinance 1969, which was used by land sharks to usurp tribal land using the SAR courts. These courts were supposed to ensure that the land of the tribal was returned, if the compensation was not fair. The proposed amendments seek to abolish the SAR courts and, in pending cases, return the land to the tribal land owners.
Government sources also said that the matter was with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which had sent reminders to all concerned that they should submit their opinions, suggestions over the next fortnight or so. A day earlier, at the two-day BJP state executive meet, the issue had come up for discussion. Senior leaders asked all the legislators and the MPs to express their views, opinions and suggestions on this issue. All of these would be taken into consideration and, hopefully, dealt with in the House also, said a BJP spokesperson.
Several voices within the BJP have been harping on making certain changes in the proposed amendments, as they have been finding it difficult to address their constituencies, where people were feeling apprehensive about the proposed changes. Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das, while addressing a gathering in a programme on Tuesday, once again made it clear that nobody would be deprived of his land forcibly. He told the gathering that people were horrified by the term acquisition due to the manner in which land was snatched from the people in the last 70-odd years. He reiterated that the government has not taken an inch of land forcibly in the last couple of years. The opposition, meanwhile, has been attacking government continuously on the issue saying it was only favouring the corporate and its ultimate effect would be that tribal would be further pushed towards margins.