As Chief Minister N Biren Singh started pulling up errant officials of the Revenue department, nine officials including two Manipur Civil Service (MCS) officers were suspended for their alleged involvement in a case related to a land scam. The duty of these suspended officials is basically of maintaining land records and settling land issues.
The recent campaign actually started with the Waithou investigation wherein the involvement of officials in land scams came out in the open. In the Revenue and Settlement offices, land records and pattas are made and unmade to suit the whims of greedy land-grabbers. The survey cum investigation launched jointly by Directorate of Settlement and Land Reforms, Forest Department and SDO Lilong under strict instructions by Chief Minister N Biren Singh has started yielding results.
Two employees including a retired one have been arrested for manipulating land records and issuing forged pattas at the protected forest area of Waithou Hills. Old land records of 1964 and maps were taken out and held under the microscope and evidence of tampering has been found. Further, 43 people who are in possession of forged pattas and 20 people who encroached into protected areas without holding any patta have so far been identified.
Land-grabbing has had powerful people pulling the strings from the back and the squatters are their pawn. 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. 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.
Earlier, we had suggested that a complete overhauling of the Revenue department along with Directorate of Settlement & 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 & environment department was 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 rationalized. 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.