Tribal leaders of Jharkhand have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep his promise of not changing the land act in the state. “Addressing a rally in Dumka in December 2014, Prime Minister Modi had promised that the tribal land protection act would not be changed. Despite his promise, the Raghubar Das-led BJP government in the state has decided to make changes in the land acts by bringing an ordinance,” said Victor Malto, a leader of Tribal Buddijivi Manch (TBM).
TBM had organised a rally against the changes in the land acts in Ranchi last week. Thousands of tribal people had participated in the rally. “Raghubar Das government is making changes in the land acts, though the state government has no power to make changes in the act coming under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Jharkhand comes under the Fifth Schedule. The Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act) should be implemented here,” Malto added.
As per the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, there should not be any land acquisition in the areas coming under the Fifth Schedule, and if it is necessary, then the permission of Gram Sabha, or village council, is mandatory. “In Jharkhand, Gram Sabhas have been made irrelevant by the successive governments,” said Malto. Echoing his view, another tribal leader, Prem Chandra Murmu, said, “Modi should keep his promise made during the 2014 assembly poll. Modi government should stall the ordinance to protect the tribal’s land and culture. Raghubar Das government is making changes in the land acts to tap the mines and mineral of the state for the corporate people.
“The proposed changes in the land acts has nothing to do with the development of the state and tribal people. In past, several thousand acres of tribal land have been acquired, but where is the development of the tribal people?”
The Jharkhand government had brought the ordinance in June to make changes in two land acts — Chhotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act. After the ordinance is cleared, the tribal land could be acquired for non-agriculture purposes like constructing roads, power plants, malls, etc.
Jharkhand Governor Draupdi Murmu had sent the ordinance to President Pranab Mukherjee for approval. As the opposition parties of Jharkhand, including Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), had met the President and requested him not to give his approval, Mukherjee had sought the view of the central government. The matter was then referred to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry, which in turn sought the view of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST). The NCST has also advised against the changes.
Jharkhand is witnessing protests over the state government’s move to make changes in the CNT and SPT Acts. The opposition parties have united and some of the BJP legislators have also spoken against the changes.