Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das is determined to stick to his government’s decision to amend two British-era laws that protect the state’s tribal people, despite widespread unrest in which seven protesters have died in police firing.
The laws restrict the government’s say in land acquisition, which is considered a hindrance in initiating development projects for “the larger interest of the state”.
Das announced on Thursday that his government would recompense people who lose their land, giving four times the value of the acquired plot. The money will be disbursed within a timeframe of four to five months, he promised.
The move is viewed as an incentive to quell tribal protests and opposition fire.
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, which is opposing the government’s move, was not impressed with Das’s announcement.
Party general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said: “The government’s intention is disastrous. By amending the land laws and forcing industrialization, the government will kill tribal culture and identity.”
The chief minister said his government took the latest decision after consulting the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC), the apex body that recommends and decides on tribal affairs in the state.
“When CNT and SPT laws were amended in the past for setting up industries, no leaders objected. Why are the protests erupting now when the proposed amendments are meant to usher in public amenities such as schools, roads and hospitals?” he asked.
Das was speaking at a function celebrating Jatra, a tribal fair, in the Ghagra block of Gumla district. The event was organised in the memory of tribal icon Kartik Oraon.
The BJP-led government has introduced two ordinances seeking changes in the century-old Chottanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act, considered safeguards against rampant acquisition of land belonging to tribal people who constitute 26.2% of the state’s 33 million population.
The government defended its decision, saying the aim is to acquire land for public interest projects. But tribal organisations are opposed to any dilution of the laws.
Das’s latest announcement follows two major back-to-back tribal protests in the state.
He said some people do not want development as he took a dig at opposition parties and indirectly hinted at the church for misguiding the tribal people on the two ordinances.
“They only want to see tribals languish in poverty. None of the leaders in the past 14 years have thought of development. Instead, they robbed the state and plundered its resources. Now, the same set of people is considering forming a third front to further plunder the state,” he said.
He clarified that the proposed changes would not destroy the basic features of the laws.
Besides, the chief minister announced a massive mahasammelan or convention in Ranchi within the next three months to exhibit tribal strength and their resolve not to allow any power to meddle with their culture, tradition and religious faith.
Das requested the gathering not to get misguided by vested interests robbing tribals of their culture and religion.
“After 70 years of Independence, three million tribal households in the state are still deprived of electricity. Will the Congress reply why this is so?”