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The squatters of Waithou area

IFP Editorial: Land-grabbing has always powerful people pulling the strings from the back and the squatters are their pawn.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 26 Apr 2022, 7:04 pm

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The chief minister was furious when he saw some illegal construction activities near the newly aligned Asian Highway in Waithou area while coming back from the Khongjom function on April 23. He pulled up the district administration officials accompanying him for turning a blind eye to the said activities and even ordered eviction of the unauthorised structures alongwith the squatters.

Every time we cross Lilong one would see temporary structures coming up on the slopes of the hills adjoining the highway in Waithou area which keeps increasing as the years go by.

Twenty years back, the hillocks were clean. Now that, the highway has been upgraded new alignments were made. However, the squatters does not lose sleep over it as it was business as usual. How could they do it if not they are backed by powerful elements. Land-grabbing has always powerful people pulling the strings from the back and the squatters are their pawn.

After assuming power for the second time the Chief Minister had flagged the issue of saving agricultural land that. 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.

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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. 

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.

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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 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.

EDITORIAL 

 

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First published:26 Apr 2022, 7:04 pm

Tags:

waithouland grabbingLand encroachmentillegal construction

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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