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Rehabilitation of erosion-hit families

Erosion caused by the river Brahmaputra, Barak and their tributaries wiped out over 2500 villages in Assam in past more than six decades.

Rehabilitation of erosion-hit families

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  3 April 2021 5:00 AM GMT

Erosion caused by the river Brahmaputra, Barak and their tributaries wiped out over 2500 villages in Assam in past more than six decades. It leads to displacement of thousands of people every year, loss of their livelihood and creates the vicious cycle of poverty. The Rehabilitation Policy for Erosion Affected Families of Assam, 2020 will help break the vicious cycle, provided it is implemented in right earnest. Erosion was excluded from the list of calamities for which the states are provided financial assistance by the Central government under the National Disaster Response Fund. The 15th Finance Commission recommended the Centre and the States to formulate resettlement policy for people displaced by coastal and river erosion. Under the policy formulated by Assam, erosion-affected families are to be divided into three categories. First category includes families, who have lost all their lands, homestead as well as agricultural land and they do not possess any other land anywhere in the state. Second category includes the families who have lost homestead land but not agricultural land. Third category includes families who lost all their agricultural lands but not homestead land. The policy states that the beneficiary families are to be identified on priority basis in the descending order of families rendered landless and homeless; families rendered only homeless; and families left with less than three bighas of land but not rendered homeless. Under the Rehabilitation package, category 1 families will be entitled to get Rs 5 lakh per bigha or actual value of land whichever is less for purchasing land up to 2.5 kathas on their own for subsequent construction of house, Rs 1.5 lakh for construction of house, Rs 1 lakh per bigha for purchase of land measuring maximum three bighas for agricultural purposes only. The Category 2 families will be entitled to cash assistance Rs 5 lakh per bigha for purchasing land and construction of house and category 3 families will be entitled to cash assistance of Rs 1 lakh per bigha for purchase of maximum three bighas of land. To be eligible under the policy the annual income of beneficiary families from any source should not exceed Rs 5 lakh and should not have received allocation of government land earlier. The definition of landless person/family shall be in accordance with the land policy in force. Inconsistency in the definition on account of amendment in the land policy may give rise to complexities in identification of eligible beneficiaries which needs to be looked into by the policy makers. The rehabilitation policy requires the beneficiary families to have records of eroded lands recorded in their names. Families occupying government land encroachers shall not be eligible for rehabilitation. This may lead to exclusion of genuine beneficiaries who often become involuntary encroachers of government land due to non-allotment of land to erosion-hit families by the district authorities concerned. If such families have already been allotted land, they would not be eligible for rehabilitation under the policy. Digitization of land records should be prioritized to rule out deprivation of genuine beneficiaries and wrong identification of beneficiaries arising out of loopholes in available land records. The policy states that land purchased by the beneficiary shall not be transferrable for 15 years from the date of purchase which will prevent distress selling of such land. Availability of land far away from site of erosion will be a huge challenge. Preparing and making atlas of available land easily accessible for erosion-hit families will expedite the application and allotment process. Expediting the process of application and allotment is crucial for timely utilisation of allocated fund and submission of utilization certificates for release of subsequent instalment of rehabilitation grant. Online submission of application, uploading of document through the Community Resource Centres can protect the poor erosion-hit families from being duped by the nexus of land racketeers and a section of corrupt employees and officials. An amount of Rs 5 crore was allocated to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority in 2014-15 financial year for grants-in-aid to erosion hit families but the fund could not be utilized for land of a clear guideline. With formulation of the policy this problem has been overcome. As recommended by the 15th Finance Commission, the Central government has allocated Rs 200 crore under the scheme "Resettlement of Displaced People Affected by Coastal and River erosion". Timely submission of proposals from Deputy Commissioners concerned will facilitate Assam government to move the National Disaster Management Authority with specific proposals for releasing adequate amount for rehabilitation of the erosion affected families in the state. Official estimates say that annual average loss of land in Assam due to erosion is 8000 hectares. Rehabilitation of erosion-hit families will be sustainable only when adequate and durable anti-erosion measures are taken by the state and the Central governments to address the perennial problem.

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