Himansu Shekhar Rout

Despite repeated disruptions of the proceedings in the Odisha Assembly for the last three days over the recent Cabinet nod to the tribal land transfer and subsequent withholding of the decision, the state government's refusal to withdraw the decision has baffled the Opposition parties and many others. 

The Opposition is highly apprehensive of the Odisha government's intention behind refusal to have a debate on the issue and revocation of the decision.
The legislators of the BJP and the Congress created ruckus in the Assembly for the third day on Thursday seeking to know why the government is reluctant to withdraw its Cabinet decision on the tribal land transfer. The opposition members suspect that the state government may implement it later. 

Even Chhattisgarh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan, who is currently in Odisha, expressed his concern over the reported withholding of the Cabinet nod to a proposal to amend the Odisha Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (by STs) Regulation, 1956 to allow ST people to transfer their land to non-tribals in scheduled areas.

What the Opposition Parties Suspect?

The BJP members apprehended a deep conspiracy by the BJD government to cash in on such a decision which will allow poor tribals to sell their land. By tweaking the law on tribal land rights, the BJP alleged that the government’s decision would encourage corporate houses to grab tribal land in the mineral-rich areas of the state.

Hence, the BJP demanded that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik should announce the complete withdrawal of the Cabinet decision on the tribal land transfer.

Congress members including Taraprasad Bahinipati raised slogans against the state government, terming the decision as ‘anti-tribal.’ They demanded the proper implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, 1996 in Odisha.

Also Read: Tribal land sale issue: Opposition on front foot to push Odisha govt on the back foot

The BJP legislators alleged that the government is forming policies to harass the tribals. Chief whip of the BJP Mohan Majhi alleged that the state government has no concern for tribal welfare though it claims to have rolled out several schemes for the tribes. 

The recent move of the government through Cabinet exposed its anti-tribal stand. “The tribals will be rendered landless if the state Cabinet’s decision, which has been withheld now, is implemented later," Mohan Majhi said.  

Meanwhile, a delegation of the BJP legislators met Governor Raghubar Das and submitted a memorandum to him over the tribal land issue. 

What the Ruling BJD says

On the other hand, the BJD countered the Opposition saying that following an instruction from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the decision on the tribal land has been put on hold.

BJD leader Arun Sahoo said that the opposition parties are not allowing the House to run smoothly so as to serve their own political interest.

“If the BJP is really concerned about the tribals, why the BJP is not raising its voice before its party-led NDA government at the Centre to include tribal languages like Ho, Mundari, Bhumija, Saura and Kui in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution,” Sahoo countered.

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