Patronising construction activities over agricultural land
As reflected in this very same column earlier, 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. Many a great time, it is the Government itself and their men who have been violating and twisting laws and Acts to suit their own interests. What the elected representative of Keirao Assembly Constituency stated at a public function on December 24 was really disturbing. By choosing the particular platform where the Chief Minister was also present, the young MLA delivered a very significant point. He was saying that he and people of Keirao AC are unable to check construction of buildings and several other structures on the prime paddy fields of Kyamgei Loukon because the constructors are backed by an incumbent Minister. This is despite the presence of Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014. Of course, the Chief Minister speaking at the same function did appeal to all Ministers and MLAs not to support construction of buildings and other structures on paddy fields and agricultural lands. Mere appeal is not enough. The matter needs to be dealt with a very firm hand otherwise people’s trust in the elected Government would erode sooner than later. All laws and Acts are meant to be applied uniformly to all the citizens. Ministers, MLAs and other elected representatives must not commit the blunder of assuming that they enjoy privileges to twist and violate laws to suit their own interests.
A gazette notification on the enactment of the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act was published on September 2, 2014. 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 as was acknowledged and championed by the incumbent Chief Minister. The previous Government enacted the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act to check 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. However, 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 emerged in the form of Chief Minister N Biren and his Revenue Minister in the beginning of their term. But today that flicker of hope too has vanished. An elected MLA speaking openly about one Minister patronising construction activities over prime agricultural land is not something which should be dismissed lightly. It deserves full attention of the public as well as the Government. The MLA’s statements speak volumes about how some influential people have been arm-twisting laws and statutes to meet their selfish interests. No doubt, effective implementation or enforcement is the most tricky part of any Act or law. Many of the people who have reclaimed agricultural land for different purposes other than agriculture are wealthy people and well-connected. However, if these people are given free hand or patronised by Ministers, what is the point of enacting the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act. Or is it a case of who will bell the cat?