IMPHAL: The All Manipur Border Area Development Association (AMBADA) has appealed to all tribal bodies of the state to extend their cooperation in the struggle for re-empowerment of the village authorities and protection of tribal land.
In a press release, AMBADA Chairman Thangkholal Baite and secretary Jangthang Mate said it was stated that the Mahatma Gandhi envisioned an independent and self-sustaining India where village level institutions are empowered. The Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 was enacted to establish Village Authorities (VAs) as statutory bodies of administration at the grass root level and the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 constitutionalized Panchayat Raj Institutions and envisaged Gram Sabha as the foundation to propel rural development by building democracy at the grass root level.
The Border Area Development Program (BADP) is a hundred percent centrally-funded program under the Ministry of Home Affairs for development of villages located within 10 Kms from the international border. As mentioned in the guidelines, Ministry intends to make the scheme participatory and decentralized by involving various local bodies including the Panchayati Raj Institutions, Autonomous Councils / Other Local Bodies/Councils /Village Authorities.
The release further stated that as was authorized by the State Government, Villages Authorities successfully implemented BADP in Manipur for the past many years. However, recent decisions and guidelines issued by the state Government relegated village authorities by excluding them in its implementation and making compulsory donation of land for implementation of the scheme. Exclusion of democratically elected grass root level institutions is a matter of great concern as it will defeat the basic principles and purpose of the scheme- participatory and decentralization.
It was said that, BADP was successfully implemented by the village’s authorities for the past many years and till date, there was no single case of dispute on the land where it was implemented. Land being a sensitive and emotional issue for the tribals, the new guidelines are merely stratagems to legally grab tribal land in broad daylight. So, donation of land to the Government for implementation of BADP is not justifiable and unacceptable, added the statement.
In a conclusion of the release, it was said that AMBADA cannot accept these new guidelines and will not remain a mere spectator in the relegation of democratically elected village authorities and grabbing of tribal land. The association appealed to all tribal bodies of the state to extend their cooperation in this struggle for re-empowerment of the village authorities and protection of tribal land.