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Conflict at Yaithibi Khunou - a Lesson for All

The conflict at Yaithibi Khunou is likely to be settled without further unrest and hope it does so. But while doing so, some persons either public or in the government may have to bite the dust.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 13 Apr 2022, 6:02 am

(Photo: IFP)
(Photo: IFP)

 

It is unfortunate that injuries were caused in a recent conflict at Yaithibi Khunou when the government tried to construct the peripheral wall around the land procured for the National Sports University then, due to objections from certain local people. There have been allegations galore many of which perhaps are not based on facts but rather with the intent to garner support.

When an official team from the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports in 2014 visited Manipur to select the site for the proposed National Sports University, after visiting five sites in the state and after the team zeroed in on the location at Yaithibi Khunou, efforts were made to make the land available free of cost to the Government of India to enable to start the construction work, It is altogether another matter that the site was subsequently changed to Haraothel, though the land ownership conflict at Haraothel is yet to be settled to the satisfaction of all parties and the construction work is not making much headway.

The land there is also a Khas land and claiming ownership and donating for the purpose is just not logical, and the question of ownership or donation does not arise as Khas land belong to the Government. If the selection of the location at Yaithibi Khunou had been confirmed, most of the construction work should have been started and completed or nearing completion.

Politics is the spoilsports, unfortunately and the glee when the NSU in Manipur was announced had slowly receded and in fact, it is now seen more as an interloper on the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex utilising various infrastructure there even denying regular practitioners of different disciplines of sports.

Recently in the conflict at Yaithibi Khunou there are even claims that an assurance were given then that employment will be given to the landowners. This is nothing but an afterthought in that some of their leaders then when they broached the subject were told in very clear term that as the institution coming up is of the Union Government, no one in the state can assure employment of locals in the NSU.

Besides, the GoI wants land free from all encumbrances and tagging employment is totally out of question and can put the project in jeopardy. They were told to negotiate a fair price for their land and a fair price was negotiated and paid and the land transferred to the State Government.

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Hence, to claim now that it was forced purchase or purchased through guile is nothing but hindsight with perhaps mischievous intent. There were also some claims that since NSU is not being built in the area, the land should be returned to the original landowners. There is certain logic in this claim but to think that the land can be returned without refunding the price paid by the Government is sheer wishful thinking.

Such land owners can propose that the land may be returned to them if they are ready to return the price they had accepted and taken earlier, but it does not mean that the government can agree to it as the value of the land had increased due to inflation during the last six/seven years.

Not a single land was acquired at Yaoithibi Khunou as mentioned above. Except for the limited khas land which belongs to the Government, all private land was purchased directly. There were a few who refused to sell their land. If this writer remembers correctly, a total of about 336 acres including the khas land were transferred to the YAS Department as the purchase was made through the department.  

After the conflict, where physical violence had taken place, the Deputy Commissioner of Thoubal had taken a meeting with all stakeholders where it was unanimously agreed to determine the exact location of the land which now belongs to the State Government in the YAS Department. This is a sane decision and the truth can easily be found out.

In fact, before the work was carried out, it would have been proper to conduct a demarcation in the presence of neighbours of the land in question and only then work started. Perhaps, the government as they are custodians of the land records, were confident of the location and had perhaps gone ahead without notification for demarcation.

As this writer goes by the road occasionally, it seems that some portion of the land procured by the Government had been encroached by individuals and this will easily come out in the fact finding process, though most of the land remain fallow. Even fake jamabandis may have been issued by unscrupulous revenue officials or individuals and if any such cases are detected; exemplary punishment must be given to the wrongdoers. This can be found out in no time as in 2015 after the purchase process was over a proper jamabandi was issued in the name of YAS incorporating the dag numbers, classification of the land and the area of each dag.

While making reference to the conflict, some had even referred to the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014 that the attempt by the State Government to construct a Mega Food Park violates the Act and the Government should refrain from constructing it and return the land to the original land owners. Such claims indicate that they are not fully conversant with the provisions of the Act as in Section 9 therein the Government has all the powers to relax the provisions of the Act if the purpose for conversion is for public purposes and the Mega Food Park cannot but be for public purposes.

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It is true that the Act is observed more in breach than in compliance and this writer has as yet to see any orders notifying Agricultural Officers under the Act, who is the first reporter of all conversions of paddy land and who should report to the Sub-Divisional Officer in all areas where MLR&LR Act, 1960 is enforced. As under Section 6(2) omission to make a report is deemed an offence under the Act, if order notifying Agricultural officers under the Act has been made, all of them would have to be penalised for failure to implement the provisions of the Act as paddy land by the side of major roads is slowly but steadily been converted for other purposes, mostly by powerful people using their political affiliation and influence or those having proximity to such individuals.

If one rides along the various major roads one can easily see many plots where the height of the paddy fields were raised by dumping earth or putting up fence or construction works going on or completed and trades other than cultivation has been started or in the process of starting. There are many stone crushing units, brick fields, go-downs, shops, schools, offices, and what not on lands which were paddy fields a few years ago.

When this writer enquired from a few Officers in Agriculture Department, they are totally in the dark about the issue of such orders notifying Agricultural Officers under the Act and the role the Department has to play under the Act!

Merely framing a law is not sufficient, the icing is in its proper implementation for which all those who are to be involved in its implementation must be made aware of the provisions of the Act and what responsibility each one of them have to shoulder.

The conflict at Yaithibi Khunou is likely to be settled without further unrest and hope it does so. But while doing so, some persons either public or in the government may have to bite the dust.  However, it may be a lesson for all to ensure that appropriate steps are taken in advance in all other places in similar situation so that such conflicts are avoided. There are many land with the State Government where large-scale encroachment have taken place and the Government must ensure to protect its own land and if need be monetise it by leasing out on medium term for cultivation to farmers or farmers groups.

(The views expressed is personal)

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First published:13 Apr 2022, 5:46 am

Tags:

National Sports Universityland conflictManipur government landland encroachmentYaithibi Khunou

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur

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