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New land policy draws flak for �undue power� to govt officials

By SIVASISH THAKUR

GUWAHATI, Jan 12 - The recently announced Land Policy, 2019 has drawn flak for vesting government officials with �undue power� in the matter of determining land rights of landless families.

Official sources wishing anonymity told The Assam Tribune that the land rights of the landless would completely depend on the view of the official concerned even if the landless family had been residing on the plot for 15 years or more.

�This is a dangerous change in the new land policy which vests all the rights with the government officials. It can invite large-scale corruption at all levels. The policy must be clear about what rights the landless family in possession of land has. How can the government decide on the eligibility criteria of a landless family settled for 15 years and then deny their land rights?� sources said, adding that the policy should be specific about the criteria and rights of landless families in occupation as it must not deny or contradict the constitutional fundamental rights of the occupant families.

Sources said possession and landlessness should be the main criteria for deciding the eligibility of the beneficiary. As per revenue parlance, possession is the main criterion that confers the right over land to the occupant.

The new policy is very specific about other land acquisition Acts like the Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1956 and the Assam State Acquisition of Land Belonging to Religious or the Charitable Institution of Public Nature Act, 1959 under which two kathas of land is allotted by fixing a premium of 50 times the land revenue. But surprisingly, the new land policy is completely silent about the Urban Land Ceiling Act, 1976 though it was repealed in 2003.

Pointing out that most land in Guwahati had been acquired by the government under Acts like Urban Ceiling Act, 1976 by paying a maximum of Rs 10 per square metre as compensation to original pattadar with the purpose and motto being distribution to needy and landless families, sources questioned how could the government now ask the landless families to pay Rs 40 lakh to Rs 50 lakh premium as per zonal value for the acquired �Ceiling Sarkari Land� in the name of distribution of land to needy people.

�The government should distribute the land in the amount they had paid to the original pattadar. Interestingly, the Narendra Modi government through a recent cabinet decision had conferred land rights to all the 40 lakh occupant families in Delhi on payment of mere Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 per family,� sources added.

Section 23 of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 specifically states that regarding disposal of vacant land acquired under the Act, its main emphasis is on welfare and common good by distribution of acquired land to needy people.

�The government should follow all three Acts � Fixation, Charitable and Urban Ceiling Acts � in letter and spirit � in respect of size of plot, i.e., two kathas and fixation of land premium, etc., because lands were acquired for specific distribution purpose and not for sale. The government should treat all three acquisition Acts as equal and in respect of settlement area and fixing of premiums, there should not be any discrimination in offered settlement area or premium in Guwahati city,� sources said, adding that the new land policy was giving more emphasis on land premium than in the 1989 land policy.

Land policy should be guided by the principle of emphasis on welfare of common and needy people and not economic exploitation in the name of land premium, etc.

A clause in paragraph 14 of the new Act says that if settlement holder cannot pay premium within one year, his settlement order will stand cancelled. Terming this as dangerous, sources said that it was impossible for an ordinary landless family to pay such exorbitant premium and would be tantamount to a trick to evict the family in the name of non-payment of premium.

�On the contrary, the government has itself failed to pay the nominal compensation of the acquired land for decades to the erstwhile pattadars,� sources said.

The Land Policy, 2019 as a whole is full of confusions and contradictions, especially the paragraph 14. It seems that land rights of citizens are not clearly defined as per the Constitution and the policy needs to be redrafted by revenue experts by keeping the land rights of citizens in mind.

A majority of the land laws were made by the British and even though they were foreign rulers, they never took land revenue as income sources of the government keeping in mind the basic need of the common people. Even the khazana they took on land was just in paisa only to retain the ownership of land with the government.

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New land policy draws flak for �undue power� to govt officials

GUWAHATI, Jan 12 - The recently announced Land Policy, 2019 has drawn flak for vesting government officials with �undue power� in the matter of determining land rights of landless families.

Official sources wishing anonymity told The Assam Tribune that the land rights of the landless would completely depend on the view of the official concerned even if the landless family had been residing on the plot for 15 years or more.

�This is a dangerous change in the new land policy which vests all the rights with the government officials. It can invite large-scale corruption at all levels. The policy must be clear about what rights the landless family in possession of land has. How can the government decide on the eligibility criteria of a landless family settled for 15 years and then deny their land rights?� sources said, adding that the policy should be specific about the criteria and rights of landless families in occupation as it must not deny or contradict the constitutional fundamental rights of the occupant families.

Sources said possession and landlessness should be the main criteria for deciding the eligibility of the beneficiary. As per revenue parlance, possession is the main criterion that confers the right over land to the occupant.

The new policy is very specific about other land acquisition Acts like the Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1956 and the Assam State Acquisition of Land Belonging to Religious or the Charitable Institution of Public Nature Act, 1959 under which two kathas of land is allotted by fixing a premium of 50 times the land revenue. But surprisingly, the new land policy is completely silent about the Urban Land Ceiling Act, 1976 though it was repealed in 2003.

Pointing out that most land in Guwahati had been acquired by the government under Acts like Urban Ceiling Act, 1976 by paying a maximum of Rs 10 per square metre as compensation to original pattadar with the purpose and motto being distribution to needy and landless families, sources questioned how could the government now ask the landless families to pay Rs 40 lakh to Rs 50 lakh premium as per zonal value for the acquired �Ceiling Sarkari Land� in the name of distribution of land to needy people.

�The government should distribute the land in the amount they had paid to the original pattadar. Interestingly, the Narendra Modi government through a recent cabinet decision had conferred land rights to all the 40 lakh occupant families in Delhi on payment of mere Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 per family,� sources added.

Section 23 of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 specifically states that regarding disposal of vacant land acquired under the Act, its main emphasis is on welfare and common good by distribution of acquired land to needy people.

�The government should follow all three Acts � Fixation, Charitable and Urban Ceiling Acts � in letter and spirit � in respect of size of plot, i.e., two kathas and fixation of land premium, etc., because lands were acquired for specific distribution purpose and not for sale. The government should treat all three acquisition Acts as equal and in respect of settlement area and fixing of premiums, there should not be any discrimination in offered settlement area or premium in Guwahati city,� sources said, adding that the new land policy was giving more emphasis on land premium than in the 1989 land policy.

Land policy should be guided by the principle of emphasis on welfare of common and needy people and not economic exploitation in the name of land premium, etc.

A clause in paragraph 14 of the new Act says that if settlement holder cannot pay premium within one year, his settlement order will stand cancelled. Terming this as dangerous, sources said that it was impossible for an ordinary landless family to pay such exorbitant premium and would be tantamount to a trick to evict the family in the name of non-payment of premium.

�On the contrary, the government has itself failed to pay the nominal compensation of the acquired land for decades to the erstwhile pattadars,� sources said.

The Land Policy, 2019 as a whole is full of confusions and contradictions, especially the paragraph 14. It seems that land rights of citizens are not clearly defined as per the Constitution and the policy needs to be redrafted by revenue experts by keeping the land rights of citizens in mind.

A majority of the land laws were made by the British and even though they were foreign rulers, they never took land revenue as income sources of the government keeping in mind the basic need of the common people. Even the khazana they took on land was just in paisa only to retain the ownership of land with the government.

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