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Tribal belts, reserve forests will not be touched: Assam Minister

Tiwa tribal people working in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. There is fear that easy transfer of land to investors may pose problems for the indigenous population.

Tiwa tribal people working in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. There is fear that easy transfer of land to investors may pose problems for the indigenous population.  

Facing widespread protests, the Assam government on Friday denied allegations that it was planning to “sell off” the State’s land resources through an “anti-indigenous people” ordinance allowing industrialists to set up shop without seeking clearances.

Various political parties, tribal and social organisations and students’ bodies went on the offensive after the Sarbananda Sonowal Cabinet approved an ordinance on June 29 to provide hurdle-free land for investors to set up medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs).

The ordinance awaits the approval of Governor Jagdish Mukhi.

“We appreciate the genuine concerns of the people. The reactions are probably because no one has seen the blueprint of the ordinance, which will not touch the tribal blocks and belts, reserve forests and eco-sensitive belts,” Assam’s Industry and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told journalists.

Hazardous industries would not be allowed to be set up through the ordinance to promote MSMEs, he added.

He insisted that the ordinance was aimed at generating jobs for the State’s 20 lakh registered unemployed as well as some 3.5 lakh people who had been jobless since returning from other parts of India owing to the COVID-19 lockdown.

“What we have envisaged is using non-farm patta (legally-owned) land lying idle, after assessment by the district magistrate concerned, or spaces in industrial estates, with the highest investment of ₹50 crore for medium, ₹10 crore for small and ₹1 crore for micro industries,” Mr. Patowary said.

To ensure ease of business, entrepreneurs would be allowed to start operations with a self-declaration and safety certificates from the fire and electricity departments. They need not submit any other document for three years. After three years of running the MSMEs, “he or she will have to possess all necessary documents within six months,” the Minister added.

Farmers worried: Cong.

The Opposition Congress, however, said it was not convinced.

“The easy transfer of land for industrial use reeks of a plan to invite major investors. The ordinance will go against the very indigenous people the Bharatiya Janata Party had promised to protect in order to come to power. The farmers too are worried that their land would be taken away,” State Congress president Ripun Bora said.

All Indian United Democratic Front president and MP, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, also slammed the ordinance as a ploy to sell off large swathes of land to corporate houses posing as MSME players.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 12:06:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tribal-belts-reserve-forests-will-not-be-touched-assam-minister/article31983834.ece

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