Jharkhand government softens stand on land acts

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Ranchi, Oct 19 (IANS) After facing protests within the party, the BJP-led Jharkhand government has indicated that it will soften its stand on the changes proposed in the two land acts formulated during British rule to protect rights of tribal and indigenous people.

The Raghubar Das-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in July this year had brought an ordinance to make changes in the Chotanagur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) acts.

Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu had sent the ordinance to President Pranab Mukherjee, who sought a suggestion from the central government.

The Centre referred the ordinance to National Schedule Tribe (ST) Commission, which advised against the state government’s proposal.

The ordinance is pending with the President. There are rumours that Mukherjee has returned it, but there has been no official confirmation on this.

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National ST Commission Chairperson Rameshwar Oraon had, in an earlier interview to IANS, said: “The changes in the two land acts are against the 2013 Land Acquisition Act and a violation of the fifth schedule of the Constitution.”

After clearance of the ordinance, the Jharkhand government can acquire agricultural land for non-agriculture purposes such as building roads, power projects and malls.

The opposition parties, including the BJP’s alliance partner, the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), had opposed the ordinance. Even a large number of tribal legislators had opposed it within the BJP.

According to sources, at the two-day BJP state executive meeting which began on Tuesday, BJP leader Saudan Singh sought the view of the legislators on the issue.

Sources in the BJP revealed that Singh categorically wanted to know the legislators’ objection to the ordinance.

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Singh also sought suggestions from the tribal legislators on how to protect rights of the tribal people and at the same time allow the land act to be amended so that land acquisition can take place.

The Chief Minister also agreed to accommodate the views of the tribal legislators.

Party sources said the Jharkhand government can prepare a new draft to be tabled in the winter session of the state assembly.

The party’s move is seen as a bid to keep calm the restive BJP legislators at a time when the state government of the Chief Minister is completing two years in office in December.

“The meeting of tribal legislators was convened during the state executive meeting so that a message is sent among tribal people that a non-tribal Chief Minister and the BJP are not imposing anything on them,” a BJP leader said.

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“The party leaders are also of the view that the opposition which has scored over the BJP for now, can get mileage in the coming elections,” the leader told IANS.

The BJP MPs and legislators have openly opposed the state government’s Domicile Policy and ordinance on land acts putting the party and the government in an embarrassing situation.

Different tribal organisations in the past called rallies to protest the ordinance. Another rally has been called on October 22 by Adivasi Sangrash Morcha.



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