Land rights panel report in 90 days

 GUWAHATI, Feb 28 – The committee constituted by the State Government to suggest measures for ensuring protection of land rights of the indigenous people of Assam formally took charge today and said that it will present its findings and recommendations within next 90 days.

Addressing the media here after the first meeting of the seven-member committee, its chairman Hari Sankar Brahma said that the panel has been tasked to suggest measures, including modification in the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886, other land laws, government circulars and land policy, for ensuring protection of land rights of indigenous people of the State.

Besides Brahma, who is a former Chief Election Commissioner of the Election Commission of India, other members in the committee are retired IAS officer Rohini Kumar Baruah, Dean of Gauhati University Law College Dr Ramesh Borpatra Gohain, senior advocate Anil Bhattacharjee, Tinsukia-based historian Srikumar Dahotia and social worker and former MLA Ajoy Kumar Dutta. Rajesh Prasad, Commissioner and Secretary of the Revenue and Disaster Management department, is the committee’s member secretary. The committee was constituted on February 6.

“We have taken charge today and hopefully within 90 days, as stipulated by the government, we will study the entire issue and recommend a land policy for protection of the indigenous people of Assam. Our task is to find out how best to update, upgrade and amalgamate the best rules and practices,” Brahma said.

He said the committee will work to find out the extent of land available in the State and the extent of encroachment, both minor and large scale illegal, and deliberate encroachment.

He said the committee has sought presentations from officials concerned and will also meet all stakeholders, including farmers, government staff, and locals from various districts, among others. It will also undertake site visits.

Brahma said that the revenue department has been asked to provide tabulation of all data within 15 days which will include land position, vegetation, encroachment and other details. It has also sought satellite imagery. “The verification of the information will be done manually as well as by use of satellite imagery,” he added.

Citing statistics, he said that of the State’s total land area, the cultivated area is of around 28,000 sq km and there are around 16 lakh cultivators. “So the landholding of majority of cultivators is very small and the holdings are not economically viable,” he said.

The State has around 23,000 sq km of forest areas, including reserved forests, he said. “The area under encroachment is multiplying. We will try to find out details of encroachment,” he said, adding that encroachment is also rampant in Guwahati.

Asked on what basis the term indigenous will be taken by the team, he said all those people who came to the State before March 1971 as well as those who are Indian citizens will be counted as such. “The Assam Accord is our foundation. It is as per the interpretation of the Government of India and the Government of Assam,” he said.

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