STAFF REPORTER IMPHAL, 28th Feb: District level agriculture officers have reportedly been instructed to conduct surveys and submit detailed reports on whether or not existing paddy field in valley areas of the state are being utilised for non-agricultural purposes.
According to revenue minister Karam Shyam, a joint meeting attended by deputy commissioners (DCs) and officers of agriculture departments of six valley districts was convened on Wednesday at his office chamber during which officials of agriculture department were advised to conduct field visits to collect latest report over utilisation of paddy land.
While informing that the officials will then submit their respective reports to the DCs concerned for further assessment of existing paddy cultivation areas, minister Shyam told newspersons that in case any non-agricultural activities could be detected/confirmed then necessary measures would be initiated under provisions of the Manipur Conservation of Wetland and Paddy Land Act 2014.
Pledging to make the existing Act more effective in order to prohibit structural constructions at prime paddy cultivation areas throughout the state, he also assured to take prompt actions if paddy lands were found to be utilised for non-agricultural purposes.
Though the said Act seemed to have been rendered toothless due to lack of compassion or determination by the previous government to check the trend of gradual shrinking of paddy field the new government under the leadership of chief minister N Biren is committed to uphold interests of the farmers and to free Manipur from the grip of food grain dependency on others, Shyam affirmed.
While reiterating that there will be no leniency against those found violating provisions of the 2014 Act, he sought cooperation of all sections of the society in the government’s endeavour to check individuals with vested interests from exploiting the economically marginalised farmers of Manipur.
Further stating that all actions would be initiated under due process of the law of the land, minister Shyam conceded that the government needs the support of the masses in the acceleration of the state’s development.
Joining the media briefing, additional secretary (revenue) Yumnam Rajen conveyed that prior to implementation of the 2014 Act a nominal fine used to be imposed against the defaulting party under the then Manipur Land Revenue Act 1960.
However, under the new Act (2014) provisions were inserted to make the law effective in conserving the paddy land and wetland with the aim to restrict the conversion or reclamation thereof in order to promote growth in the agricultural sector in the state, he said.
While explaining that under exceptional condition, including a farmer bereft of any other land with the exception of agricultural plot, he/she may utilise .20 acre land in rural area and .10 acre land in urban area for personal convenience or projects of public interest, Rajen cautioned that the relaxation does not cover use of the said plot for commercial purposes.
Further stating that committees at the state, district and local levels exist to specifically monitor sale/diversion of agricultural land, he informed that these committees are entrusted to protect existing agricultural land with maximum efforts and to intimate to the higher authorities in case the issue at hand merits governmental intervention.
It is informed that the head of departments concerned are nominated as members of the state level committee while the respective DCs head the district level committees. At the local level the committees have SDOs are the chairpersons.
Regarding penalty, the officer informed that violation of the Act will entail imprisonment of no less than three years and maximum of five along with monetary fine ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.