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Govt keen to enforce Paddyland Conservation Act

 Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, March 10 2018: With the aim to preserve the ever shrinking paddy fields, the BJP-led State Government has started taking up numerous steps under the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014, and those who defy this act might be awarded appropriate punishment including imprisonment for a minimum of 3 years along with fine.

Though the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014 was enacted during the previous Congress Government, it is only the BJP-led coalition Government which has been working to enforce it effectively.

It may be mentioned that even Revenue Minister Karam Shyam had personally prevented illegal excavations at paddy fields recently.

The Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014 came into force on September 2, 2014, after a gazette notification signed by Th Kamini Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary (Law), was issued on the same day.

The Act enables creation of various local and block level committees in different parts of Manipur to safeguard unlawful use of scarce paddy fields.

The Government should also set up a local level monitoring cell in each ward of Zilla Parishad or Municipal area as per the Act.

Respective Sub-Divisional Officers and Agricultural Officers shall be made chairperson and convenor of each committee.

Concerned SDCs and two farmers each nominated by the concerned Zilla Parishad or Deputy Commissioner should be made members of the committee.

The main function of the committee is to protect and safeguard paddy fields under its jurisdiction and to check whether paddy fields are used for any other purposes.

The committee will also report to Sub-Divisional Officers if any act of defiance is committed.

Moreover, the committee will also act as a complaint redressal cell for the public.

As per the Act, the committee should be authorised to categorise whether a paddy field or wetland should be used for public purpose or individual purpose like construction of houses.

However, the committee's authority to declare a particular paddy field for public use or individual use should not exceed more than 0.20 acre in Panchayat area and 0.10 acre in Municipality area.

The committee should also prepare a data bank for paddy fields and wetland based on satellite pictures and formulate various guidelines and timely suggestions to keep paddy fields and wetlands more useful and productive.

As per the gazette notification, the non-official members should have a term of not more than three years and quite evidently three years have passed since its inception.

For this reason, questions will arise about selection of new members or whether the term of the previous members has been extended.

Even though the role of the committee in discharging its duty to protect and safeguard against illicit use of scarce paddy fields and wetlands is enormous, the effectiveness of the committee is still questionable.

So, district level committees headed by Deputy Commissioners will always remain above the various Panchayat and Municipal level committees and they also posses the power to approve conversion of paddy field or wetland of 0.20 acre in panchayat area or 0.10 acre in municipal area for use in various other commercial or public purposes.

On the contrary, the district level committee will have the District Agriculture Officer and three farmers recommended by the Deputy Commissioner as members.

The term of the members will be 3 years.

The committee will further discuss all the recommendations submitted by the local level monitoring committee and will take decision upon them.

State level committee will be above district level committee.

Members from the district level committee, not below the rank of Sub-Divisional Officer of Revenue Department or the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police, can exercise the power conferred by the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2014 against defaulters.

The committee should also report to the Deputy Commissioner concerned to initiate further action against the defaulters within 48 hours.

The penalty for defying the Act will be punishable with a fine ranging from Rs 50,000 to 2,00,000 with imprisonment of 3 to 5 years in jail, as per the Act.