Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Land Regulations: A Flashback

Land Regulations: A Flashback

Out of a total geographical area of 8249 sq. km. of A&N Islands, 86% belonged to forest department and 14% was revenue land before Tsunami. The revenue land of Andamans district before the bifurcation of the districts was 77, 942.05 hects. and that of Nicobars District was 4530.34 hects.
History of settlement in these islands dates back to 1789 with actual settlement in these islands that started after the first freedom struggle of 1857 under the occupation of British. They used to deport hard core convicts and freedom fighters to these islands. The life was very miserable since the islands were full of snakes, forest, incessant rains making the land marshy and muddy causing deadly diseases like Malaria. Some of the prisoners who chose to settle here were given land, and such allotments were demarcated and the first comprehensive survey was conducted in 1926.
In the past, to regulate the tenure of the land in these islands, a Regulation called the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Land Tenure) Regulation 1926 was enacted and was in vogue from 15th March 1926.  According to this, all the land in the Islands was vested absolutely in 'His Majesty' and saved as provided by under Section 3 of this Regulation. The said Regulation was repealed by another regulation defined as A&N Islands Land Revenue and Land Reforms Regulation, 1966 promulgated by the President of India and rules framed thereunder were A&N Islands LR and LRR, 1968 which came into effect from 1st April 1968.  Under the 1966 and 1968 Regulations, all the land in the islands vests absolutely in the Government. Thus nobody has ownership on the land, but the allottees are tenants of the Government under classified categories namely Non-Occupancy Tenant, Occupancy Tenant, Grantee and Licensee.
The procedure for allotment of land for various purposes under various categories are laid down under the provisions of section 146 of the Regulation read with Rule 170 to 175. House sites and agricultural plots are allotted to the poor and landless persons after obtaining applications from them. In the past, when the land -man ratio of these islands was satisfactory, there was no specific quantum of land fixed for allotment. Earlier the locals and Bengali settlers were given land as per the agreed communication with the parties and the government. But later the situation deteriorated and in 1994-95 the Andaman District made a target for allotment of 2000 house sites for which 35,000 applications were received. What happened to the entire process is still in smokes.
Following the instructions of Government of India the Administration considered regularisation of pre-1978 encroachments on revenue and forest land. 7212 encroachment cases were finalised by issue of licenses to the persons found to be in possession of government revenue land on a date prior to 31-12-1978.
The then Lt. Governor, A&N Islands in Oct 1993 had categorically instructed the Revenue Authorities, "Under no circumstances, encroachments committed after the cut-off date will be encouraged or regularized. I would like to see that all such encroachments are removed and tackled with an iron hand" Who will have this 'Iron Hand' was not clear and as a result since last 10 years more than 5000 encroachments have taken place, many under the nose of obvious authority of the 'Iron Hand'.   

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