Ranchi : The tribal and non-tribal ministers of Jharkhand seem to be clearly divided over repealing the Urban Land Ceiling Act (ULCA) with the tribal lobby fearing that the annulment would enable tribal land to be used by non-tribals.
While the non-tribal ministers are in favour of repealing the act, the tribal ministers are not.
If the ULCA is repealed, which automatically brings into effect the Central Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Repeal Act 1999, the state would get a central assistance of Rs.50 billion under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
Jharkhand Land and Revenue Minister Dulal Bhuiya has not attended the last three cabinet meetings to avoid discussions on the issue. Tribal ministers feel that repealing the ULCA will affect the spirit of two laws formulated to protect the interest of tribals.
Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT) and Santhala Pargana Tenancy Act (SPAT) were formulated around four decades ago to protect tribal interests. Under the laws tribal land cannot be sold to non-tribals.
"The interests of tribal people will not be hurt by repealing the ULCA. The land and revenue minister is shirking his responsibility. If the act is repealed the state will get central assistance. We should first think about the state's interests," said state Urban Development Minister Harinarayan Rai.
The tribal ministers, however, think otherwise.
"At present, repealing the ULCA is not our priority. The state government will look into each aspect and then decide on the matter. We will not take any decision that will hurt people's interests. We will also see whether the two pro-tribal laws will be affected by repealing ULCA," said state Human Resources Development Minister Bandhu Tirkey.
While Bhuiya is currently out of the state, Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi, also a tribal, preferred "not to comment on the issue". The state government has constituted a sub-committee under the leadership of Marandi to look into the matter.
Chief Minister Madhu Koda, also a tribal, said in a recent interview that, "the ULCA will be repealed in one year".