Teak planters demand 'ancestral' land back

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Aizawl, Sep 5(UNI) Private teak planters under the Tut-Langkaih Forest Reserve in western Mizoram today demanded that their 'ancestral' land be given back to them.

On behalf of the teak planters and other land holders under Kawrthah forest division, the Hachhek Constituency Development Committee (HCDC) submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Zoramthanga urging him to help the teak planters sell their 'fruits of labour' at their own disposal.

As per a Supreme Court order, the state forest and environment department had demanded that the teak planters accept that the land on which the plantations had been raised are government reserved forest to be issued permit for felling and selling the teak plantations.

But the planters insisted that the SC had authorised the state government regarding regulation of the plantations, quoting the order that stated, ''Plantations raised on private and community land holdings shall be regulated under respective state rules and regulations.'' The memorandum also quoted directives of a high power committee for Northeastern region as stating that 'felling of trees plantation origin raised by the individual in the state in the past, under the supervision and in consonance with the rules and regulations of the department, and their disposal outside the state may be allowed'.

According to the department's proposal, which was as per the SC order, all operations of timbers should be done departmentally including marking, felling, logging and transportation. In order to carry out that operation, the department and the planters should deposit 5-10 percent of the market value of the timber, as an administrative charge, the actual percentage of which may be decided between the two parties.

That the land holders must submit their land passes to the forest department is unacceptable to the villagers for that would mean surrendering their lands they 'inherited' from their ancestors.

While demanding revocation of the Tut-Langkai Forest Area that covers an approximate area of 500 sq m under Kawrthah forest division and amendment of the Mizoram (Forest) Act, 1955, the teak planters also demanded application of The Schedule Tribes and Other Traditional Dwellers passed by the Lok Sabha in 2006.

The teak planters demanded that their demands be met before September 19 failing which the HCDC will decide their future course of actions.

UNI ZS PL DB1649

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