EDITORIAL

Records of Land Rights

It is heartening to learn that as a follow-up of the recommendations made by former Chief Election Commissioner Hari Sankar Brahma, the Assam government is ready to ensure the land rights of the indigenous people of Assam. On Wednesday, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed the Revenue Department to implement the recommendations of the Committee to protect the rights of the indigenous people of the State. This is not only essential but a sacred duty of the State government to its people. Over the years, one of the most difficult tasks for the indigenous people of the State has been securing the documentary proof of the land they have either inherited or acquired through purchase. The simple task of mutation of land has been turned into a veritable obstacle race of sorts. Everyone who has had to go through the task of getting landed property registered in one’s name has gone through the painful experience of having to wait for months to accomplish this task. It is as though the officials connected with the business of mutation of land and the surveyors (mandals) derive some kind of perverse pleasure from delaying a fairly simple operation of registering it in the name of the rightful owners. Those who have bought land in any of the south Indian States have seen the difference in the efficiency with which such transactions are completed in a matter of one or two days in those States. We have a new land policy in the offing, but it is not any new policy but rather a new attitude to the business of ensuring the land rights of the indigenous people that alone can ensure justice and fair play to the fairly simple task of registering land in the name of the rightful owners. In Assam, the entire business of registering land in the names of the real owners has become an activity that has long been made to look like some kind of a favour done to the owner of the land. At the same time, those who have connections with people in the revenue department or those who know the surveyors well have no trouble at all about getting their documents in the shortest possible time. It is not enough to merely talk about the need to protect the land rights of the indigenous people of Assam. It is high time we made the process of protecting the land rights of the people not just a much acclaimed commitment of the new land policy in the offing, but recognized the right of the indigenous individual of the State to be spared the hassle of coping with the nitty-gritty of the registration of the land and the process of mutation that can often take months in our State for the common man. It is high time we learned to see land as a vital commodity that has the built-in right of transfers and sales like any other commodity on this planet of ours. It is the speed and efficiency with which sales of land can be effected in Assam that is going to count in the days to come, and not the land policy we formulate to govern the legitimate transfer of land in the State nor the newspaper reports that the authorities get published in order to make a revised land policy appear like a major achievement in respect of protecting the land rights of the indigenous people. These are inalienable rights that have existed for decades. There is no point pretending that the government is doing something new for the indigenous people of the State.