TODAY -

Village Authority in the Hill Areas of Manipur of Manipur
A Case Study of Hmar Villages in Pherjawl District
- Part 2 -

Dr. Ruolkhumzo *



Paper presented in the National Seminar on Issues and Challenges of Local self-government in Manipur orgd. by Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University (14-15 Dec 2018)

3. Administration of justice:

The Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) Act, 1950 provides for the establishment of the Village Court. However, there is no separate Village Court to be found in the Hmar villages of Pherzawl District. The Village Authority is the Village Court. No doubt, there are some people who approach the court (Judiciary) to settle disputes but there are still many people who are in the interior parts of the state who goes to the Village Authority to settle their disputes.

Since time immemorial, in the Hmar society cases were tried and decided according to the customary laws. The customary laws governed all criminal and civil cases including murdered. It must be noted that generally the laws concerning civil and criminal aspects of disputes were enforced by the Village Authority while personal laws such as relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption, etc. were normally administered by the elders of the concerned clan.

However, the administration of the personal laws was also referred to the village court when things became complicated and could not be settled by the elders of the concerned clan. The party who lost the case had to pay a fine to the Village Authority known as salam which was normally in the form of a pig.The usual way of sharing the salam was to arrange a feast for themselves. Regarding inter-village disputes, the Chiefs of the concerned villages used to sit together and decide the dispute together as mentioned earlier.

4. Implementing the Development Programs of the Government in the village:

After independence, many Development Programs were started in India like Community Development Program, Integrated Rural Development Program, etc. Normally these programs were implemented in the village through the Village Authority. Usually the government entrusted the Village Authority to identify and select beneficiaries under poverty alleviation schemes. They are also entrusted to review all the developmental works within the village and report to the Block Development Officer.

Along with their role in the identification of beneficiaries for development programs, they are to formulate and supervise village developmental schemes; help governmental agencies in carrying out developmental works in the village, receives grants-in-aid, donation, subsidies from the government or any other agencies; to provide security for due payment of loan by any permanent resident of the village from the government; to enter into any, loan agreement with the government, bank or any financial institutions.

Another important function of Village Authority is to constitute Village Development Committee, a statutory body to assist the Village Authority in executing development policy program. Through their membership in the Village Development Committee, they are suppose to oversee the identification and selection of beneficiaries under the various scheme meant for rural development and ensured proper implementation of various programs of the Central and State Governments.

The village Authority in the Hmar villages of Pherzawl District plays a very important role in the administration of the village. But when we compare with the Village Council in pre-independence period we can say that it has less authority over the people. During the pre-independence period, the village council headed by the chief and his councilors were very powerful. Chieftainship in those days was hereditary. The chief would appoint anyone of his choice from his villagers to be his councilors.

In fact, the chief was the fountain head of all powers. All executive, legislative and judicial powers were vested in the chief along and his councilors. Besides, the chief enjoyed a number of privileges. Some of these privileges were: Busung (paddy tribute), Sadar (one foreleg of any four-legged animal killed), Khuoizu (honey collected), LalThaphut (compulsory labour to be rendered by the villagers to the chief in time of constructing his house as well as for carrying out other community tasks), Chisung (salt tax), Ran man sung (a certain amount of the price of an animal sold to be paid to the chief), etc.

The Hmar chief thus enjoyed various privileges. In this regard Prof. Lal Dena notes: "the rights of the chief to these services was infact the foundation of his political power and his accumulated wealth enabled him to command the respect and loyalty of his own clan or tribe and other clans or tribes conquered".

The new administrative changes introduced since 1947 onwards have brought about significant changes in the traditional administrative system of the Hmars and the authority structure inside it. Under the Manipur Hill People's (Administration) Regulation of 1947, all the members of the Village Authority were nominated according to the prevailing custom. However, under the Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act, 1956, this custom was axed to a large extend.

Under the Act of 1956, the chief got exemption from the election to the Village Council as he was made the ex-officio Chairman of the Village Authority. But for other members, they are to be elected by the villagers on the basis of adult suffrage. The election of other members of the Village Authority resulted in increased significance of the other members of the Village Authority. The village chief now cannot be expected to have as much power and control over the Village Authority members as they used to have earlier over the Village Council.

Another significant change brought about by the new developments is that though there is no specific provision in the Act for the discontinuation of payment of the traditional chief's share like busung, sadar, khuoizu, etc., people in most of the of the Hmar villages in this District have stopped such payment to the chief.

Now-a days all the members of the Village Authority are like unpaid servants of the Government functioning in the traditional way. They could no longer enjoy the privileges which they enjoyed earlier. Because of their weak position they are unable to perform their work effectively. This has created many problems while trying to secure proper administration, proper maintenance and utilization of the village resources.

CONCLUSION:

The Village Authorities in the Hmar villages of Pherzawl District continue to performs numerous role in the village like distribution of land for jhum cultivation, maintenance of law and order, administration of justice, implementation of various Development Programs of the Government, etc despite changes brought about by new developments. It is the Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act of 1956 which has brought certain changes in the old system.

Many other Acts/Amendments have been passed from time to time by the government but due to opposition from the tribal leaders it could not be implemented. Thus, it is the Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act which has brought changes in the old system. This Act provided that the chief would remain as the Ex-officio Chairman of the Village Authority but other members are not to be selected by the Chief but to be elected by the villagers.

This has reduced the power of the chief to control the other members of the Village Authority. Besides, the Chief no longer enjoy many of the privileges which he used to enjoy earlier. The members of the Village Authority are now unpaid servants in the village. The need of the hour is to revitalize the existing institution of Village Authority. For example, giving Constitutional Status and renumerationto the Village Authority like that of the Panchayati Raj Institution and Municipality would be an option.

To conclude, Village Authority would be given more powers and funds which would enable them to formulate policies and programs for the welfare of the people in the village.

REFERENCES:

o Ghori, Gulab Khan: Changing Phase of Tribal Area of Manipur, Delhi: B.R.Publishing Corporations, 1984.
o Horam, M: Dynamics of Development: ACase of the Hill Areas of Manipur, Manipur Legislative Assembly, Imphal,1998.
o Rao, V. Venkata: A Century of Tribal Politics in North East India 1874-1974, New Delhi: S. Chand& Company Ltd.,1976.
o SanajaobaNaorem(ed.) : Manipur Past and Present, the ordeals and heritage of a civilization, Vol.III (Nagas and Kuki-Chin), New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1995.
o Thuomte, H: Hmar Nunhlui(Hmar Culture), Churachandpur, 1997.
o The Manipur State Hill Peoples(Administration) Regulation, 1947 Manipur Treaties and Documents, Volume I, NaoremSanajaoba (ed.).
o Commentaries on Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 and &the Manipur Hill Areas Act, 1966 by Daniel Ramsan Advocate, Guwahati High Court.
o A Handbook of Manipur Hill Village Authority, Law Department, Government of Manipur.
o Interviewed with the village chief/chairman and members of the Village Authorities of the Hmar villages in Pherzawl District.


Concluded ........)


* Dr. Ruolkhumzo wrote this article which was published at Imphal Times
The writer is Assistant Professor , Dept. of Political Science, Manipur University
This article was webcasted on January 02, 2019.



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