Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Sunday said many policemen and other officials in the state were into land grabbing, which had assumed alarming proportions. He proposed a land-use policy to prevent productive farmland from being converted into industrial areas.
In his customary New Year interaction with the media, Gogoi said a tribunal would be set up this year to handle land-grab cases. “Such cases are too many, and they need to be fast-tracked instead of gathering dust in the lower courts.”
The seriousness of the issue — ministers, legislators and former rebels have also been accused of grabbing land in urban and semi-urban areas — had in June 2010 led to the Assam Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act being passed. It was, however, panned as a toothless tiger.
In the last couple of years, at least 30 land-grab cases have been reported in Guwahati and other major towns of the state. In June last year, four persons were killed in police firing during an eviction drive in the city allegedly on behalf of builders. A few months later, a woman was abducted and killed after she refused to part with her two-storey house in a prime location.
On protecting productive farmland, Gogoi said, “We are working on a land-use policy that will clearly define which types of land can be used to set up industries and which cannot be touched.”
Villagers across Assam have been opposing various industrial projects. The most intense protests have been against the acquisition of around 340 acres of farmland for a proposed cement factory at Senabor village in Khetri, some 40 km east of Guwahati.
On a brighter note, Gogoi promised the first three position holders of high school leaving certificate examinations, from this academic session, would be sent on a study tour of National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the US.