Friday, December 2, 2022

Jharkhand assembly passes bill to use 1932 land records

A bill that proposes to use 1932 land records to determine people’s domicile status was passed in the Jharkhand assembly on Friday.
The bill is seen as a fightback by Chief Minister Hemant Soren to strengthen his support base among tribals amid the political crisis in the state. Soren, who is facing summons from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the risk of losing his membership of the assembly over an office of profit case, said the day “will be written in gold letters” in the state’s history as he sought to fulfil the demand of tribal bodies.
In a special session of the assembly, the Jharkhand Definition of Local Persons and for Extending the Consequential Social, Cultural and Other Benefits to such Local Persons Bill, 2022 was passed by voice vote.
The bill states that the population of tribals is on a decline and policy intervention was needed to check it.
Tribal bodies in the state have been demanding that the last land survey conducted by the British in 1932 be used as the basis for defining locals as against the currently accepted cut-off of 1985. The opposition BJP accused the JMM-led ruling coalition, helmed by Soren, of rushing the bill, without a debate, to gain political mileage as nothing was going to happen till the Centre approved it.
People whose ancestors were living in the area before 1932, and whose names were included in that year’s land records will be considered local residents of Jharkhand, when the proposals in the bill come into effect.
Gram sabhas will be empowered to take a call in case a person was landless or his name was not recorded in the 1932 land survey, based on the culture, local customs and tradition, among others. This insertion is seen as a means to target forest-dwelling tribals, most of whom, do not have their names in any land records. As soon as the bill was passed, JMM workers across Jharkhand began celebrations with firecrackers and abir, dancing to the beats of ‘dhol’, ‘nagara’ and ‘mander’.
The bill seeks to provide “certain rights and benefits to the original inhabitants/Moolvasis/aboriginals over their land, their stake in the local development of the rivers/lakes/fishery, their local traditional and cultural and commercial enterprise, their rights over agricultural indebtness, maintenance, protection of their land records, for their social security, employment/unemployment both in private and public sector…”
Hitting out at the BJP, Soren said the opposition MLAs were in uproar inside the House as they were in tremendous “pressure, fear and anxiety” due to the milestones achieved by the JMM-led coalition, which wants all-round development of the state, “instead of hatching conspiracies”.
He claimed that the situation was such that “the prime minister was resorting to making threats”.
“We are not afraid of ED, CBI and other central and constitutional agencies used by the Centre to destabilise us… Even if we are lodged in jail, you (BJP) will be wiped out from Jharkhand,” he said.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued a fresh summons to Soren to appear before it on November 17 for questioning in a money laundering case linked to alleged illegal mining in the state. The agency said it has “identified” proceeds of crime to the tune of more than Rs 1,000 crore so far. Soren is also facing the risk of being disqualified as an MLA, which will lead to him losing his chief minister’s post, for allegedly leasing a mine to himself in violation of election law provisions. Following a petition by the BJP, the Election Commission (EC) sent its recommendation to Governor Ramesh Bais on August 25, triggering a political crisis in the state.
Addressing the assembly, the chief minister said November 11 was a very special and historic day for Jharkhand. “We have fulfilled the promises made to people. We will send it for inclusion in the Ninth Schedule of Constitution as per constitutional provisions and follow up with the Centre so that people of Jharkhand get their rights unlike the past,” he said.
“On November 11, 1908, the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act came into existence, while on November 11 last year, the Sarna Religious Code was passed in the Jharkhand assembly, and sent to the central government and once again today 1932 Khatian-based bill was passed,” he said.
A proposal to send the bill for vetting by an assembly committee was rejected.
Amid the chaos in the House, senior BJP MLA Bhanu Pratap Shahi was heard saying, “We have come to support the legislation… give us the opportunity to speak.”
He later told PTI that the issue does not pertain to the Ninth Schedule, and was an “eyewash” to deliberately delay the procedure to divert the attention from the corruption allegations and the declining law and order in the state.
“Passing the bill in hurry is nothing but an attempt to gain political mileage by raking up sensitive issues,” BJP MLA Anant Ojha said.
“A few months back, Soren had said in the House that 1932-based Khatian was not possible, and it will be turned down by the courts. Now, what happened that the government brought the bill and got it passed? It is just a stunt to fool people,” he added.
In 2002, the Babulal Marandi government too had brought in a similar policy but it was scrapped by the court.
The Local Residents Policy was challenged before the Jharkhand High Court, which set aside the definition of local persons and directed the government to describe it afresh, besides prescribing the guidelines for determining local persons in accordance with the state’s history.

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