Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Thursday interacted with officials of Revenue and Forest Department at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat to discuss issues regarding implementation of the provisions of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960.
During the interaction programme, he urged all the officials to work with sincerity and transparency to save the forest and paddy lands of the state. He said, it is imperative to save our paddy land and increase our produce to become self-reliant. In recent times, he had been pushing the officials hard to check whether paddy fields are put to use for any other purpose other than paddy cultivation and to prevent further conversion of paddy land.
The Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act, 2014 has been invoked in the present survey, in letter and spirit. State revenue officials have 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 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. The Chief Minister’s action is indeed commendable, as the state had been losing agricultural land every year. As one traverses along the National Highways in the Greater Imphal area, we will see agricultural land being reclaimed and converted into service centres for various auto-dealers, brick-kilns, stone crusher units and many other industrial complexes besides a host of other activities not of agriculture.
The stretches from Mantripukhri to Koirengei on Imphal Dimapur road, Takyel to New Keithelmanbi on Imphal Jiribam road and Ghari to Malom on the Airport road are all lost to agriculture. It is happening not only alongside the highways but in interior areas and near the district headquarters also.
In such a scenario, the state’s endeavour to strictly enforce the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act, 2014 is welcome. We agree that due action must be taken against those responsible for conversion of agricultural land for non-agriculture purposes like industrial or commercial activities.
However, we also need to have a broader perspective while dealing with the loss of agricultural land. The very nomenclature of the Act and its provisions somehow seems to restrict any other agricultural activity other than paddy. This throws up several questions. For one, what do we understand by the term ‘agricultural land’ as such? By definition, agricultural land is typically land devoted to agriculture, the systematic and controlled use of other forms of life particularly the rearing of livestock and production of crops to produce food for humans.
The same spirit is also reflected in the preamble of the Act which says, ‘An Act to conserve the paddy land and wetland and to restrict the conversion or reclamation thereof in order to promote growth in the agricultural sector in the State of Manipur.’ As we understand, the term ‘agriculture sector’ comprises establishments primarily engaged in growing crops, raising animals, and harvesting fish and other animals from a farm.
Likewise, agricultural activity includes not only production of paddy and wheat but also of horticulture, dairy, livestock, poultry, fish and even bees. So, restricting conservation of agricultural land only for paddy is against the spirit of promoting growth in the agriculture sector.
Many farmers have already begun to consider rice farming as a losing profession on account of high cost of production and no remunerative price as they had to bear tremendous risks in agriculture. So, either an amendment of the Act or framing Rules to allow other agricultural activities besides rice cultivation is very much needed.