Paddy land conservationStill a far cry

A Cabinet meeting held on November 24 resolved to finalise the rules drafted for Sections 7 and 8 of the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014 which was passed by the State Government in the first place to protect prime agricultural lands and wetlands. But everybody would be having a fair idea of how effective is the Act in saving agricultural land and wetlands in the State. As testified by the ever shrinking agricultural lands and fast disappearance of many wetlands, the Act is, as of now, confined to Government files. 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 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 and we fear the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014 is heading in the same direction.
The very act of enacting the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2014 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. But the successive Governments have failed abjectly when it comes to effective enforcement of the Act and protection of paddy lands 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. Only time will tell if the newly finalised rules for Section 7 and 8 can make any difference to the Act and its effectiveness.