Protection of paddy land Act and implementation

There are many Acts, laws and statutes enacted by the successive elected Governments of Manipur but one area where these elected Governments invariably fumbled or failed with regard to certain laws and Acts has been the implementation part. An Act may look quite comprehensive and impressive, and its contents may be very noble, ambitious, visionary and tailored to address many present day problems and imminent as well as remote future problems of human society but the same beautifully crafted Act is nothing more than a white elephant if the executive (sic Government) which is responsible for implementing it is ill-equipped or bereft of the necessary dose of will. Examples of the Government’s failure to enforce its own Acts and laws are galore. Since the Manipur People’s Party Government led by late RK Ranbir passed the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act in 1991, the same Act has been in force throughout the State officially. Yet, the reality tells a very different tale. Liquor of all kinds and brands including Indian Made Foreign Liquors and foreign liquors are available in abundance albeit prices are quite high. Seen in the light of this stark reality, the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act is a sheer irony. The fact remains that Manipur, an officially dry State, has been flooded by liquors of all types and brands. In another word, the whole exercise and the spirit with which the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act was enacted have been defeated and humiliated. The Act is there in the official gazette but it is toothless, spiritless and powerless. The Act is de facto dead albeit alive de jure.
Another Act which has caught attention of media and masses alike recently is the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014. A gazette notification on the enactment of the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act was published on September 2, 2014. The Act was passed by the previous Congress Government led by Okram Ibobi. The very act of enacting the Act testifies the fact that there is a growing need to conserve agricultural land and wetlands in the State. Rice is the staple diet of the people of Manipur of which hills, mountains and highlands form 90 per cent of its total geographical area. It is in the remaining 10 per cent that exhaustive paddy cultivation is done. No doubt, jhum cultivation and terraced cultivation of paddy is done in the hill areas too but the yield is minimal. It was this hard fact which awakened the previous Government to enact the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act and their thrust for the same Act was accelerated by fast shrinking of the limited agricultural land and wetlands due to reclamation of paddy land for different purposes which include establishment of brick farms, construction of schools, colleges, offices, hospitals, oil pumps and dwelling houses. Like the successive Governments, the Congress Government failed abjectly when it came to effective enforcement of the Act and protection of paddy lands and wetlands. Such repeated failures on the part of the successive Governments have over the years bred a sense of pessimism among the masses yet a flicker of hope has emerged in the form of Chief Minister N Biren and Revenue Minister Karam Shyam. Both the Chief Minister and the Revenue Minister seemed committed to enforce the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014. No doubt, effective implementation or enforcement is the most tricky part of any Act or law. Only time will tell how successful the BJP-led coalition Government is in protecting agricultural land and wetlands. Many of the people who have reclaimed agricultural land for different purposes other than agriculture are wealthy people and well-connected. Yet, there is an urgent need to protect and conserve agricultural lands as well as wetlands for posterity and the Act must be enforced in letter and spirit indiscriminately. Enactment of an Act and its enforcement are inseparable if the Act should be made fruitful but the tragedy is, the successive Governments seemed to have had harboured a bizarre notion that enactment of an Act and its implementation were unconnected or separate.

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