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Call to repeal �faulty� policies to protect indigenous communities� land rights

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 23 - Expressing its lack of trust over the land-related policies of the State government, the Co-ordination Committee Against Citizenship Amendment Act has sought repeal of both the MSME ordinance and the Assam Agricultural Land (Regulation of Reclassification and Transfer for Non-Agricultural Purpose) Act, 2015, to secure the land rights of the indigenous communities of Assam.

The committee, headed by Dr Hiren Gohain as its president, has stated that even as the State government tried to curb the opposition against the MSME ordinance by promising strict compliance with the Land Act of 2015, in reality, both the land policies are not enough to protect the agricultural land. It also alleged that both the ordinance and the legislation have several gaps, leaving enough scope for manipulation.

�With concerns raised from different quarters regarding the possibility of MSME ordinance jeopardizing the land rights of indigenous people, the Assam government had announced about certain amendments in the ordinance. State Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary announced that all the provisions of the Assam Agricultural Land (Regulation of Reclassification and Transfer for Non-Agricultural Purpose) Act, 2015 and other land laws will have to be followed and adhered for setting up of any enterprise. However, the way this government forms and implements its laws, we are apprehensive about the fate of land rights of the people of Assam,� the committee stated.

The committee further alleged that a closer look into the land Act of 2015 reveals that it promotes the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural (primarily business) purpose. It also raised its objections over Section 3 (I) of the Act dealing with fine and premium for regular re-classification, a post facto regularisation under Section 9(II) and some other clauses like Section 9(II) (4), Section 13 (4), power given to a deputy commissioner for land re-classification, and provisions for district level high power committee for land classification and valuation.

�Floods, natural calamities or several other factors may lead to a discontinuation of agricultural activities on the agricultural land. It does not mean the government should make way for selling those lands for business activities. Rather, steps should be taken to assist the farmers to make best use of their land and augment their sources of income. The state government must take proper measures to make agriculture a sustainable livelihood option,� it further mentioned.

The committee also demanded a proper land policy in Assam, protecting the land rights of people of Assam, land patta for landless indigenous people, land allotment to those affected in flood and erosion, etc. It also called upon the farmers� organisations and land rights bodies to form strong local committees across the State to raise their land-related concerns in a strong way.

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