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The issue of being landless in Meghalaya

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  23 March 2017 12:00 AM GMT

From A Correspondent
Shillong, March 22: The issue of being landless in Meghalaya where land is owned by the people came up for discussion in the Assembly on Wednesday.
Initiating the discussion on a cut motion, brought by Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) legislator from Nongkrem, Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit, said that it is an irony that when land in the state belongs to the people only 24 per cent of the households (i.e. 1,16,723 households of 4,85,913 households) own land, whereas 76 per cent (369,190 households) owns no land. According to Basaiawmoit, the origil concept of the land holding system is that no member of the Khasi community is supposed to live without land.
The HSPDP legislator from Nongkrem said that, a person who does not own private land is entitled to be allotted with community land for household purpose and can also enjoy benefits from the resources available in the community land.
“However, the situation has drastically changed these days. I strongly feel that even autonomous district councils especially the KHADC and the JHADC have miserably failed to protect the rights of the people in the land allotment,” Basaiawmoit said.
He said that since the power is vested on them by the provision of the Sixth Schedule this institution has failed to reign in the traditiol chiefs and the legislator alleged instead it is found that they are working in tandem with local chiefs to exploit the people.
Meanwhile, Basaiawmoit suggested that the government should identify all community lands to know their present status. He also said that the government should find out how many of these community lands have been surreptitiously exploited by those who are supposed to the custodian and guardian of community lands even as the government must fix responsibility on those who are involved in the sell-out of community land.
Meanwhile, United Democratic Party (UDP) Legislator from Sohra Titosstarwell Chyne took up the issue of seven acre Maxwelton Estate which is located in the city. Chyne also informed the House that catchment area in Lawsohtun which is a source of drinking water has been encroached by the defence authorities.
According to the UDP, legislator from Sohra, in 2007 the Court asked the government of Meghalaya to constitute an Advisory Board on the land in question but till date nothing is known about the recommmendations. UDP, legislator from Nongthymmai, Jemino Mawthoh said that there is a need for survey and documentation of land holdings and proper maintence of land records.
Mawthoh said that the main feature of the land tenure system in Meghalaya was the issue of ambiguity. According to him the categories of land holdings like community land, ancestral land, public land, private land has led to alietion and strains in relationships as far as ownership, occupancy and control rights are concern.
The UDP legislator from Nongthymmai also said that the elite class-political, bureaucracy-rich people are taking away lands from the poor at throwaway prices which has led concentration of lands only in certain sections of society.
Mawthoh said that the poor has to sell off their lands because of the pecuniary position and once the money they accrued from selling off their lands they become landless in their own place.
tiol People’s Party (NPP) legislator from Dadenggre James K Sangma said that the government should have a “land use policy” with the ever increasing population.
Sangma said that the government should clearly demarcate an industrial area from an agricultural area.
The NPP legislator from Dadenggre also alleged that the state government has not yet paid the compensation to the flood victims of 2014 in Garo Hills.
UDP legislator from West Shillong, Paul Lyndoh who also took part in the discussion on the cut motion said that villagers in the border villages with Assam are reluctant to register their lands with Meghalaya.
According to Lyngdoh, Assam is incentivising the local population to come forward and register their lands even as he stated that the revenue officials of that state are moving along the border areas and encouraging the populace there to register their lands with them.
The UDP, legislator from West Shillong however pointed out that in Meghalaya the villages along the border with Assam in Ri-Bhoi district are asked to come to Nongpoh with their registration fees to register their lands.
“The (Meghalaya) officials should move to the border belt, interact with the populace there, look at their land records and do micro-mappings of their lands,” Lyngdoh said. In his reply to the discussion on the cut motion, Deputy Chief Minister, in-charge Revenue, Prof RC Laloo said that the people of the state fear that if there is a survey of their lands they would be taxed and thereby their field staffs face resistance.
“They are apprehensive that if survey is allowed they may be levied tax,” Prof Laloo told the House. “When it comes to land opposition continues…but the government will not run away from its responsibilities and continue to maintain its land records,” he added.
The Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Revenue also informed the House that the department was surveying government lands. Moreover, on the issue of sale of land, Prof Laloo said that the government has limited role to play in the matter since people are the owners and they have the right to make their decisions. The Deputy Chief Minister, however, said that the government will look into regulation and sale of lands.
Further, on the issue of encroachment at Lawsohtun by Defence authorities, and the recommendation of the advisory board, Prof Laloo said that the matter is being examined by the Law Department. On the issue of the Maxwelton Estate, Prof Laloo informed the House that the state government has filed a Review Petition in the High Court.

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