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Does the Assam MSME Ordinance threaten indigenous land in the state?

The ordinance does away with bureaucratic hurdles for setting up small industrial units

Sabrangindia 09 Jul 2020

Assam

On June 29, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal set the cat among the pigeons when he tweeted about the new Ordinance governing the setting up of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in the state saying, “In a major decision to boost Atma Nirbhar Assam, the CoM passed an Ordinance which does away with permissions for starting any new MSME unit for 3 years.”

 

Chandramohan Patowary, Cabinet Minister for Transport, Industry and Commerce further explained the move tweeting, “Now any one will be able to set up industry in Assam just by submitting one self declaration.” He added, “No permission, clearance or licence will be required for three years. Land will also be deemed converted for industrial purpose. Such bold and advantageous change is expected to accelerate the industrialisation process in Assam.”

 

While some viewed it as a major step in doing away with bureaucratic red tape and a major boost to entrepreneurial spirit, many others wondered what the ramifications would be for indigenous people in the state.

On July 1, Dr. Samujjal Bhattacharjya, chief advisor of All Assam Students Union (AASU) tweeted, "Assam Cabinet's decision reg the land is totally anti-indigenous. People’s land rights will be lost. Violative of Assam Accord, @mygovassam  must withdraw the decision. The land rights must be at the hands of indigenous people." On July 2, AASU burnt copies of the cabinet decision and demanded immediate withdrawal of the ordinance. 

 

Opposition parties also raised concerns about the potential misuse of the ordinance. Congress leader Debabrata Saikia, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam State Assembly told Hindustan Times, "This ordinance will severely hurt Assam’s rural economy and farmers. Not many Assamese have means to procure land and set up industries and the benefit of this ordinance will be reaped by those from outside." 

In an interview to The Wire, Joydeep Baruah, associate professor at Omiyo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development (OKISCD) categorically termed the state government’s move “very insensitive and outrageous”. He said, “This will only result in a process of large-scale land alienation and accelerate a process of primitive accumulation in the state.”

Senior advocate Nilay Dutta told The Telegraph that the move was the “most anti-indigenous decision by the Assam cabinet to allow indiscriminate conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes without permission of revenue authorities.” Dutta added, “Land speculators will benefit. Non-locals will take over all the rural land of the indigenous people.”

This backlash forced the state government to issue a clarification. On July 2, Patowary clarified, “MSME ordinance approved by Assam Cabinet is only for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, not for Large Industries. This will largely help Local Entrepreneurs. This ordinance will not be applicable for hazardous industries and no industries will be allowed in Eco Sensitive Zones.”

 

Speaking to media persons at a press briefing Patowary further said, “The Sonowal government will never do anything to compromise the rights of indigenous people. We are committed to protecting the indigenous people of Assam.”

 

In fact, on July the Chief Minister also tried to showcase the government’s commitment to protecting land rights of indigenous people by announcing how they had granted land patta (land ownership document) to over 45,000 indigenous people.

 


While the government appears to be making all the right noises, whether they walk the talk, needs to be monitored closely.

 

Related:

Assam gas -well blowout: 11 days on, threat to humans and animals remains high

The Adivasi cannot live without the forest: Dayamani Barla

Stalled Murkongselek-Pasighat railway line grabs headlines amid escalating LAC tensions

 

 

Does the Assam MSME Ordinance threaten indigenous land in the state?

The ordinance does away with bureaucratic hurdles for setting up small industrial units

Assam

On June 29, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal set the cat among the pigeons when he tweeted about the new Ordinance governing the setting up of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in the state saying, “In a major decision to boost Atma Nirbhar Assam, the CoM passed an Ordinance which does away with permissions for starting any new MSME unit for 3 years.”

 

Chandramohan Patowary, Cabinet Minister for Transport, Industry and Commerce further explained the move tweeting, “Now any one will be able to set up industry in Assam just by submitting one self declaration.” He added, “No permission, clearance or licence will be required for three years. Land will also be deemed converted for industrial purpose. Such bold and advantageous change is expected to accelerate the industrialisation process in Assam.”

 

While some viewed it as a major step in doing away with bureaucratic red tape and a major boost to entrepreneurial spirit, many others wondered what the ramifications would be for indigenous people in the state.

On July 1, Dr. Samujjal Bhattacharjya, chief advisor of All Assam Students Union (AASU) tweeted, "Assam Cabinet's decision reg the land is totally anti-indigenous. People’s land rights will be lost. Violative of Assam Accord, @mygovassam  must withdraw the decision. The land rights must be at the hands of indigenous people." On July 2, AASU burnt copies of the cabinet decision and demanded immediate withdrawal of the ordinance. 

 

Opposition parties also raised concerns about the potential misuse of the ordinance. Congress leader Debabrata Saikia, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam State Assembly told Hindustan Times, "This ordinance will severely hurt Assam’s rural economy and farmers. Not many Assamese have means to procure land and set up industries and the benefit of this ordinance will be reaped by those from outside." 

In an interview to The Wire, Joydeep Baruah, associate professor at Omiyo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development (OKISCD) categorically termed the state government’s move “very insensitive and outrageous”. He said, “This will only result in a process of large-scale land alienation and accelerate a process of primitive accumulation in the state.”

Senior advocate Nilay Dutta told The Telegraph that the move was the “most anti-indigenous decision by the Assam cabinet to allow indiscriminate conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes without permission of revenue authorities.” Dutta added, “Land speculators will benefit. Non-locals will take over all the rural land of the indigenous people.”

This backlash forced the state government to issue a clarification. On July 2, Patowary clarified, “MSME ordinance approved by Assam Cabinet is only for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, not for Large Industries. This will largely help Local Entrepreneurs. This ordinance will not be applicable for hazardous industries and no industries will be allowed in Eco Sensitive Zones.”

 

Speaking to media persons at a press briefing Patowary further said, “The Sonowal government will never do anything to compromise the rights of indigenous people. We are committed to protecting the indigenous people of Assam.”

 

In fact, on July the Chief Minister also tried to showcase the government’s commitment to protecting land rights of indigenous people by announcing how they had granted land patta (land ownership document) to over 45,000 indigenous people.

 


While the government appears to be making all the right noises, whether they walk the talk, needs to be monitored closely.

 

Related:

Assam gas -well blowout: 11 days on, threat to humans and animals remains high

The Adivasi cannot live without the forest: Dayamani Barla

Stalled Murkongselek-Pasighat railway line grabs headlines amid escalating LAC tensions

 

 

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