TODAY -

Govt move to put curb on new villages
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: August 06, 2022 -



FRUITION of the government's plan to frame and implement laws to regulate setting up of new villages will ultimately depend on diligence and sincerity of the executive officers working at the ground level.

Among others, efficiency and honesty of officials including the SDOs/SDCs, who are posted in interior parts of each district and under whom all processes for issuance of documents begin, will be decisive on whether the criteria set for village recognition ranging from land, number of households to approval from forest department and district council serve the real purpose.

Taking into account of past reports related to official confirmation about existence of fake villages in Chandel district and bogus beneficiaries found enrolled under the old age pension scheme, it wouldn't be presumptuous to state that the biggest challenge that could render toothless the proposed legislation, under which villages having less than 50 households wouldn't be granted official recognition, would be susceptibility, if any, of the district level officials to resist material offer.

Around April 2018, the then SDO (Chakpikarong) Rang David confirmed detection of 136 fake villages in Chakpikarong sub-division of Chandel district though these villages already granted official recognition as human settlement areas.

The startling revelation, which came just a few days before the formal launch of 'Go to Village' mission of the N Biren-led government, shocked both the state authorities and the concerned public as the mission is aimed at ensuring provision of basic amenities to all parts of the state with particular emphasis on deprived section of the rural population.

These 'ghost' villages detected during a survey by the sub-divisional level officials also validated the suspicion that there could be more such fake villages in other parts of the state.

Interestingly, village authorities and chiefs of these fake villages discovered during field visits by officials to enumerate physical presence of populated areas under the sub-division, were asked to justify existence of the villages within the May 5, 2018 deadline served by the SDO himself.

Apart from these fake villages, the then Social Welfare, director Jacintha Lazarus revealed that 7038 people out of over 65,000 enlisted for availing monthly financial assistance under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension scheme were found to be fake, thereby corroborating widespread irregularities and nepotism among certain bureaucrats within the establishment.

Among other issues, the objective to put a curb on establishing new villages is to protect the forest areas in the hills and conserve prime agricultural land in the valley.

Putting into practice laws governing conservation of land to sustain the limited production of food crops wouldn't be tough in the plains under the Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2014, if the provisions are implemented effectively.

However, the same cannot be said for the hills, where the landownership rights are traditionally bestowed upon the village chiefs concerned.

Outright objections against the government's initiatives to carry out eviction drives to clear the reserved forest areas of unauthorised settlements stand testimony to the fact that the hills are beyond the control of the establishment.

Similarly, the government may proceed to enact laws to prohibit or restrict setting up of new villages but the same policy might not go down well with the hill populace, especially in view of prominent tribal individuals and civil societies asserting that landownership has been their birth rights since time immemorial.

Nevertheless, having already announced in the Assembly on Wednesday, chief minister N Biren would be eager to translate into action the reported discussion held to disapprove recognition of villages which have less than 50 households.

The chief minister's appeal to the bureaucrats not to work beyond their jurisdiction but strictly implement rule of law while giving recognition to new revenue villages implies that the proposed policy will bear fruit only if officials working at the district level act with proficiency and sound judgement.



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