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No land survey carried out in State since 1964: panel

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, July 27 - No land survey and settlement operation was carried out in Assam as per the provisions of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886 since 1964 and this has caused immense hardship to the indigenous people of the State. This fact came to light in the interim report of the Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam.

The Committee , headed by former Chief Election Commissioner of India HS Brahma, has also stressed the need for expediting the process of digitization of the revenue records and recommended that the process should be completed by March 31, 2018.

The Committee observed that over the years, the Assam Government failed to discharge its statutory obligation of conducting survey and settlement operation at fixed intervals, which caused hardship to the stakeholders, particularly the indigenous people of the State. The report said that non renewal and non partition of the joint pattas caused serious problems for the common people. Non partition of the joint pattas deprives the people from enjoying the rights and privileges of landowners.

The committee noted that thousands of indigenous landowners are yet to get pattas even after 53 years of completion of the last land survey and settlement operations and there is no plausible reason for not conducting regular settlement operations. The Committee recommended that settlement operations in respect of all classes of land in the State should be carried out immediately and appropriate records of land rights should be issued to landholders.

The Committee is of the view that the survey and settlement operations should also include the tea gardens to ascertain issues like the total area of land issued to individual gardens, total area of land under the possession of the gardens, actual area under tea cultivation, demarcation of the boundaries, whether the area in possession of the garden is used for growing any other crop or any other purpose other than tea plantation, whether any Government land is encroached by any tea garden, whether the original lease of the gardens are still valid or expired, etc.

The Committee expressed its happiness at the initiative of the Government for digitization of the revenue records, but at the same time, noted with concern that the process is very slow in some parts of the state including in the BTAD areas. The Committee recommended that the process should be expedited in all the districts of the State and it should be completed by March 31 next year.

On encroachment of Government land, the Committee recommended that a Special task Force headed by a high level government officer should be constituted to take steps to remove such encroachments in a time bound manner.

During the study, the Committee also found some very interesting facts. One such issue is that till date, the Assam Government does not have any mechanism to ascertain whether a person is actually landless or not. This will cause a major challenge to the administration while taking any decision on allotment of land to the landless indigenous people of the state.

The Committee also observed that there have been a tendency on the part of the indigenous people to sell their patta land and in the process, they become landless class of people. It is not unlikely that some such people resort to encroaching Government land, the report said. There have also been instances where indigenous people shifted their interests from agriculture to non agriculture based activities, which also contributed towards transfer of agricultural land to non agricultural class of people, the report added.

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