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Editorial of the week

MLR and LR Act
Courtesy: The Sangai Express 06 July, 2002

The announcement by the Revenue Minister E Biramani on the floor of the Assembly on July 4 that the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act has been extended to certain parts of the hill district is sure to throw Up another round debate and it is our fervent wish and hope that discussions and debates over this are not reduced to parochialism and jingoism. As the Minister informed the House, MLR and LR Act has been extended to 39 villages in Churachandpur district, five villages in Chandel district and one in Tamenglong. Of the myriad gains, particularly economic gains to be achieved through such a decision, we have no doubt, but over the years the relationship between the hill and valley people has undergone such social dynamics that today MLR and LR Act is not something merely about extending a law to the hills but has come to mean something very sensitive just like the demand for the implementation of the provisions of the 6th Schedule in the hill areas of Manipur. Both these are fine and should suit the need of the people in Manipur but care should be taken to see that no mischief mongers are given the room to mislead and misguide the people over these issues. This however should not be taken to mean that the Act has been extended to all the hill districts, but at least a beginning has been made and we hope and pray that the initiative taken up by the Congress led Secular Progressive Front Government is not misinterpreted and misrepresented by some vested interest who have everything to gain by exploiting the fragile social set up in Manipur. The Revenue Minister also informed the Assembly that as the Act has been extended to the said villages, valley people are entitled to buy land and settle down there. Different meanings and interpretations can be given to the decision of the Government, but we would like to look at it from a purely objective point of view and lay our case before the public and the readers.

No one would deny that the valley particularly the capital city of Imphal is today congested thanks to the large migration from the hills and other far flung areas of the State. Yes, we know, the migration towards the capital city is compelled more by the facilities available here than any other factor put together. But is this the be all and end all to the story? Let's go a little further and study the ground realities. As valley people or any other community not from the hills cannot buy land and cannot even dream of settling down there permanently, no one in his right mind would want to invest any money in the hill areas. Here we are not talking of any schemes and development programmes from the Government but about private enterprises and businessmen. Stories are replete of private businessmen and enterprising individuals who have made their fortunes in the hills but it is also equally true that while these businessmen have earned their livelihood in the hills they are not very willing to build infrastructure and invest more as they are not entitled to buy land and settle down their. The extension of the MLR and LR Act, we are sure will be able to address these lacunae to a certain extent. Extending the Act will also mean a new definition of land ownership and this may have a bigger impact than others as it would have a direct bearing on land inheritance and other aspect as the patta system would come into play. The benefits that the State coffers stand to gain from this need not be emphasized But what cannot be dismissed is also the plain fact that the extension of this Act will have a profound effect on the social ties and relationship between different communities residing in Manipur. To say that physical proximity is important to inculcate the feelings of oneness and solidarity would not be over stating the fact and if all the people were allowed to settle in any part of the land, then the much talked about alienation of a particular community may not have arisen at all. Apprehension, if any, that the hill people may be exploited by the more worldly valley people is not far fetched and civil societies which have been carrying the flag of brotherly co-existence should strive to see that this does not happen. On the other hand opposing the extension of the Act on the ground that a stretch of land belongs to only one particular community would not be in the interest of the people.


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