GUWAHATI, Feb 5 - Terming as unfortunate the fact that lakhs of indigenous people in the State have yet to receive land pattas, legislators today called for the conversion of villages, in forest lands having little or no green cover or where there is an abundance of human habitation, into revenue villages for providing succour to such families.
Taking part in the discussion on a ‘Pending Resolution’ in the Legislative Assembly about providing land pattas to the indigenous people of the State, Independent MLA Bhubon Pegu said there is an urgent need to address the issue.
The pending resolution had been moved by BJP MLA Padma Hazarika in the last session of the Assembly.
“Over 12,000 families have ‘encroached’ upon forest land in my own constituency of Jonai. They are deprived of government schemes and welfare projects like tractor distribution, irrigation and houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Such people ask when they will get the tag of being residents of revenue villages instead of being termed as encroachers,” he said.
Pegu said the ‘The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006’ provides for conversion of villages in forest areas as revenue villages.
He said the absence of revenue surveys and forest surveys has led to a situation where proper demarcation of boundaries between different categories of land have not become possible.
Pegu called for the allocation of funds to carry out such surveys so that indigenous people are able to receive land pattas.
Blaming red-tapism for the delay in action, he said continuing disenchantment of the indigenous people who remain deprived of land pattas could lead to serious repercussions.
Speaking on the issue, BJP legislator Ranoj Pegu said over one lakh people in Sonitpur district have been kept outside the panchayat system because they are tagged as encroachers in forest land.
“Those villagers are deprived of the benefits of public welfare schemes and there is no power supply to those places... There are six gaon panchayats in Dhemaji where people do not have land pattas,” he said.
The BJP MLA said erosion and natural calamities have displaced lakhs of families.
“There is a need for resettling such families. Some land can be de-reserved using the provision of the Forest Rights Act,” he said, and cited the example of two villages inside the Dibru Saikhowa National Park whose residents have been selected for resettlement elsewhere but where the government has failed to take up the exercise due to lack of adequate land elsewhere.
Ranoj Pegu called for the creation of ‘buffer land’ in reserved areas comprising segments having very little or no greenery or vegetation or where human population is quite high.
BPF’s Rabiram Narzary said the governments over the years have failed to provide land pattas to the tribals and other indigenous people. Narzary called for the formation of a State-level committee headed by the Chief Secretary to monitor conversion of selected forest land into revenue villages.