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Jharkhand governor ‘returns’ CNT/SPT amendment bills

Guv asks the state government about its benefits to the tribal people

ranchi Updated: Jun 26, 2017 09:00 IST
Sanjoy Dey
Tribals proceeding in a rally organised by Birsa Munda Ulgulan Manch in protest of state government’s proposed amendments in CNT and SPT Acts
Tribals proceeding in a rally organised by Birsa Munda Ulgulan Manch in protest of state government’s proposed amendments in CNT and SPT Acts (Diwakar Prasad/ HT File Photo)

Governor Droupadi Murmu has returned the bills seeking amendments in decades old twin tenancy Acts asking the state government about its benefits to the tribal people, sources in the Governor House said on Sunday. However, official confirmation is still awaited.

The Raghubar Das government had amended the two laws—Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT-1908) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT-1949) Acts—on November 23 last year after getting it cleared in the assembly through voice vote in order to facilitate infrastructure building. The amendment empowers the government to use agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

Though the principal secretary to the governor, SK Satapathy did not respond to HT’s repeated calls, neither did he reply to SMS, a top official, close to chief minister, confirmed the development but he refused to make any official statement on the issue. The Governor House had reportedly received 192 objections against the amendment bills.

The parliamentary affairs, food and public distribution minister Saryu Rai, who was in Ahmedabad on Sunday, told HT over phone, “I heard of the development. She (the governor) might have returned it, as officials are neither accepting nor denying it.” He also admitted that some members within the party had objections in the proposed amendments.

Led by the opposition parties, the proposed amendments had triggered a tribal unrest in the state. Political parties as well as tribal bodies had organised hordes of rallies in Ranchi and other parts of the state to protest the amendments. Even Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar joined the tribal agitation by addressing several tribal rallies in Jharkhand.

The move also led to internal rifts in the Bharatiya Janata Party with many ministers, legislators and members of the working committee raising voice against the government’s decision and expressing fear of losing support in their respective constituencies.

Party insiders told Hindustan Times that a majority of legislators expressed discontentment over the bills to party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav during his visit to Ranchi on June 17. Coincidentally, chief minister Raghubar Das did not attend the meeting.

A minister in the Raghubar Das cabinet, requesting anonymity, said party leaders and ministers were facing tough times during their visits to the interiors of their respective constituency as they did not have answers to the questions raised by voters on the amendment bills.

Party insiders said the Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan had discussed the social and political impact of the amendments with chief minister on June 22. Former tribal chief minister Arjun Munda had also been called at the meeting.