GUWAHATI, Aug 12 - Stressing the need for protecting the land rights of the indigenous people of Assam, the Committee formed by the Government of India to suggest measures for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord has suggested that the State Assembly should enact an Act to make encroachment of Government land including forests a cognizable criminal offence with provision for expeditious trial.
The Committee is of the view that if the land rights of the indigenous people are not protected along with the political rights, it would be a futile exercise to adopt measures for implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord in true spirit. The Committee said that the provisions of the Assam Land Revenue and Regulation, 1886 should be strictly followed and restrictions should be imposed on transfer of land of indigenous people to others. However, exceptions can be made in case of requirement of land for activities undertaken by Central and State Governments including construction of Highways, the report said.
The Committee said that in addition to the tribal belts and blocks, the Government should identify revenue circles where only �Assamese people� can own and possess land and transfer of such land in these areas are limited to them only. The State Government should take immediate steps to prevent shrinkage of prime agricultural land. These should be retained as permanent cropland and there should be complete ban on transfer of such land for non-agricultural purpose, the report said. However, the Committee also said that the land unfit for agricultural purposes may be identified by a land survey within a specified period and declared as industrial area.
Observing that the small tea garden movement created self employment opportunities to a large number of people, the Committee said that the State Government should make schemes to motivate young entrepreneurs to take up agriculture and allied activities.
The Committee observed that the land records in the State are in a mess and said that the Government should take up a time bound programme to update and authenticate land records. A time bound three year programme should be taken up on a mission mode to allot patta to the �Assamese people� who are in occupation of land for decades but do not possess any land document, the Committee said. It further said that all wetlands, grazing reserves etc should be freed from encroachment and protected from further encroachment to maintain ecological balance.
The Committee recommended that all char areas should be surveyed by taking a special programme. The newly created char areas should be treated as Government land and erosion affected people should get priority in allotment. It further called for statutory provisions to prohibit transfer of tea land for any other use without the permission of the Government.
Expressing concern over the failure of the Government to protect the tribal belts and blocks, the Committee recommended setting up of land tribunals in all the districts and said that such tribunals should be manned by competent Judicial officers having experience on dealing with the subject.