Time for overhaul of Revenue Department
The present district boundary system as it exists is quite arbitrary and not people friendly and it needs to be rationalised.
Just before the exit of Karam Shyam of LJP from the BJP-led Manipur government, we had suggested that a complete overhauling of the Revenue department along with Directorate of Settlement and Land Records and also the offices of the Sub-Registrars is needed. The Revenue department has a long history of various land scams in the past involving powerful people. But, Manipur is not alone in land scams. Land-grabbing by the rich and powerful is everywhere. It had become so frequent that the previous government had made it compulsory for any land allotment to go through a Cabinet Sub-Committee. But, people always find a way to circumvent the rules and regulations. The present case of overlapping boundaries between forest and revenue has been a long-standing issue particularly in the adjoining areas between the valley and the hills. Claims and counter-claims have often led to land disputes between villages of hills and the valley, which many a times led to clashes.
This has been a major cause of concern for the government as the clashes always gets a communal tinge. So, Chief Minister N Biren’s initiative for a joint survey by the state Revenue department and Forest and Environment department is indeed a welcome step. We understand that the joint survey is aimed at prevention of encroachments on forest areas and reconciliation of forest and revenue boundaries. But, it is not that easy a process as it involves not only reconciliation of forest and revenue boundaries but the question of district boundaries and the issue of administrative convenience also.
The present district boundary system as it exists is quite arbitrary and not people friendly and it needs to be rationalised. So, we would strongly suggest that, the rights of the forest dwellers along with the rights of the valley people residing in the foothills who depend on the nearby hills for their livelihood be considered in the said process of reconciliation. In the Forest Rights Act, 2006, it is said that the same rights also can be claimed by any member or community who has for at least three generations (75 years) prior to the 13th day of December, 2005 primarily resided in forests land for bona fide livelihood needs. As we said before, since times immemorial, many adjoining villages in the valley had their own ‘Uyoks’ or forests reserves and grazing grounds in the nearby hills.
Having said this, we would like to turn our attention to other issue of saving agricultural land that the Chief Minister flagged recently. He had asked top revenue officials to initiate necessary steps to award penalty if anybody is found developing homestead land on paddy field and wetland after 2014, the year when the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act was legislated. This is very pertinent as revenue officials has been circumventing the law time and again, even though there were restrictions earlier also on conversion of agricultural land as homestead land or for non-agricultural activities.
The law was that, a penalty of such and such amount would be exacted from anyone who is found converting agricultural land to homestead land. The funny part is, the penalty or fine has been interpreted as the fee for such conversion. The major culprit in this practice was the Amins or Supervisor Kanungos, who were entrusted with all field activities. They are the ones who are conducting land surveys, land measurement besides entry of new pattadars in land records and also maintenance of the land records. The word of the Supervisor Kanungo (SK) is final in determining individual ownership of a land or the actual status of the land in question as to whether it is a homestead land or agricultural land. They are so powerful that it is very difficult to transfer or take action against them when they are at fault or suspected of tampering with land records. Now, with the Chief Minister himself handling the Revenue department we suggest it is time to cleanse the department.