Ruckus in Odisha Assembly over tribal land transfer issue

Ruckus in Odisha Assembly over tribal land transfer issue

Bhubaneswar, Nov 22 (PTI) Odisha Assembly on Wednesday witnessed noisy protests by opposition BJP and Congress members over the state government's decision to allow scheduled tribe (ST) people to sell their land to non-tribals.

As soon as the members assembled for the Question Hour, the agitating BJP and Congress MLAs trooped into the well of the House and shouted slogans demanding immediate withdrawal of the decision leading to several adjournments. Both the treasury bench members and the opposition called each other 'anti-tribal'.

The Odisha cabinet on November 14 had decided to amend the Odisha Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (by STs) Regulation, 1956 to allow the ST people to transfer their land to non-tribals in scheduled areas with a written permission from the sub-collector. However, two days later, the government withheld the decision.

Congress members also demanded the implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996 in the state. As noisy scenes continued in the House, Speaker Pramila Mallik first adjourned the proceedings till 12 pm and later for another 45 minutes.

Holding banners, the BJP members later staged protest outside the Assembly. 'Though the state government makes tall claims that it is of the tribals, for the tribals, and by the tribals, the recent move of the government exposed that it is anti-tribal,' BJP chief whip in Assembly Mohan Majhi said.

The decision of the cabinet is against the provision of the Constitution, he said. 'We cannot understand what prompted the government to take such a harsh decision to grab the tribal lands?' Majhi asked.

As the legislation was just 'put on hold' and the government can reinforce it at any time, therefore, the BJP has been demanding complete withdrawal of the legislation, he said.

Replying to a question on the purpose of disrupting the House, Majhi said: 'We had requested the Speaker to allow us to bring a motion to discuss the issue suspending other business of the House on the day. However, it was rejected. So, we staged a protest inside the House.

The Congress chief whip Taraprasad Bahinipati said his party welcomed one of the decisions of the cabinet but was not in favour of the decision to allow the transfer of ST land to non-tribals.

'We welcome the decision to allow the tribals to mortgage their land for education and business purposes. However, we are against the move to allow sale of tribal land to non-tribals,' Bahinipati said.

He also demanded the implementation of the PESA Act, 1996 in the state to safeguard the interest of the tribals.

Rejecting the opposition’s 'anti-tribal' slur, Odisha's Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Sudam Marndi claimed that the BJD government headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has all along worked for the welfare of tribals.

On the recent Cabinet decision, Marndi said the decision of the cabinet has been withheld as per the direction of the chief minister. However, the Opposition BJP and Congress are playing cheap politics over the issue and stalling the House'.

The BJD government has been at the forefront when it comes to the development of tribals, he said. PTI BBM AAM RG

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