The Chhattisgarh government has constituted a sub-committee to amend the rules governing the sale of tribal land, a move that has drawn criticism from activists who say this will clear the way for non-tribals and major companies to acquire adivasi land parcels.
The panel, made up of six tribal MLAs, is to submit a report on the proposed amendments in its next meeting, a government statement said.
Activists in the state say this is a step towards legalizing the sale of tribal-owned lands to large firms. The Sarwa Adivasi Samaj, a tribal body, held a meeting on Saturday in which it accused the Congress government of misleading and misrepresenting the tribal population.
“The Congress had earlier opposed the then BJP government’s proposal on the same. Now that they are in power, they are doing the same. Our tribal leaders are also under pressure of the system. This is in no way acceptable to the community and we will not let this pass,” said Vinod Nagvanshi of the Samaj.
“A tribal would always sell his land as the last resort. If it befalls him to sell his land, it means the government has failed them. How can they even consider this is beyond us,” Nagvanshi said. “The Tribal advisory committee doesn’t even have an office of its own as of now, how can they be strong enough to represent us in front of the pressure from the big firms after tribal land,” he added.
The committee instituted by the Tribal Advisory Board Monday comprises MLAs Mohan Markam, Laxmi Dhruw, Laljit Rathiya, Indrashah Mandavi, Shishupal Singh Sori and Chintamani Maharaj. While Sori, Mandavi and Chintamani have recently been made parliamentary secretaries, Rathiya and Dhruw, insiders believe, are close to the Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
Under the Forest Rights Act, the right of land for tribals is inalienable. While there exists a provision of obtaining gram sabha consent and acquiring the land, the land parcels can’t be sold off. The state government, however, is considering an amendment to the Land Revenue Code to allow the sale of tribal land to non-tribals.
Land rights activist Alok Shukla said: “The fact that this government wants to consider the decision of making tribal land saleable to non-tribals means that they want to tweak the law as it is. The Congress government will have to reconsider this decision, because there will definitely be a pushback.”
The Chief Minister’s Office did not respond to queries till press time.