By – James Haokip
General Secy. ATRPFM
All Tribal Rights’ Protection Forum Manipur (ATRPFM) is saddened the inhumane act of the State government for eviction of 3 (three) houses of Macheng Village, Lamlongei, Mantripukhri, Imphal East District, Manipur on 24th April 2020 during the ensuing lockdown. As per the press release dated 24.04.2020 of the Forest Department, Govt. of Manipur, the houses were constructed during the lockdown, however, when we contacted the village, the houses were constructed in 2017. The allegation of constructing houses during lockdown is shameful claims of the State Government and DFO, Central Division, Forest Department. There is no compulsion to demolish any house during the lockdown, the government can evict them after the lockdown if the occupancy is illegal. In fact, it is the duty of the State Government to provide shelter to the residents of the State at least during such a horrible and difficult time. The DFO, Central Division just took the decision for eviction on Facebook after going through a comment / post of an individual in violation of the lockdown guidelines and orders of the Government. In his Facebook comments, DFO, Central has written that taking advantage of the forest burning and lockdown, the houses would be demolished which is extremely inhumane on his part and without application of mind just because the occupants belong to tribal community.
It may be mentioned here that the Macheng Village was established under dereservation of 2’75 acres out of the Langol Forest Reserve for the rehabilitation of the villagers of Nagaching and the Under Secretary to the Government of Manipur has written a letter to that effect and all of them have land pattas issued by the State Government.
In every State, there are many illegal and unregularized occupants but the governments give best effort to regularize them and provide shelter homes with all facilities. However, in case of Manipur, the Government is always ready to demolish and left the residents homeless, even during national lockdown which is inhumane.
Almost 2,000 informal settlements in Delhi were set to be legalized that would give more than 4 million residents the right to own their homes in India’s capital and the decision of the government was published in newspapers on October 24, 2019 under a headline “Four million slum dwellers in Delhi to win property rights”. India’s cabinet passed a bill to regularize 1,797 unauthorized slums in the country’s most populous city, giving residents ownership rights at “minimal rates” that would enable them to build and sell properties and take loans. “It will transform the lives of more than 40 lakh (4 million) residents who came to Delhi in search of a better life and livelihood but were forced to live in squalor,” said Housing Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. “Besides providing a legitimate claim to the property, the decision will encourage property holders to invest in safe structures, thereby improving living conditions in these colonies substantially,” he said at a press briefing. Most inhabitants are migrant workers from other parts of India who cannot afford regular housing in the city of more than 18 million people. Authorities have built roads and drains in some settlements, but many lack basic facilities and residents face the constant threat of eviction, according to housing rights activists. “It must ensure equal access to basic services, adequate housing, and protection from demolition and eviction,” it was observed. In 2012, as many as 895 colonies were regularised by the then Congress government led by Sheila Dikshit. In other States, the Government gives its best efford to provide equal shelters and facilities to the illegal occupants equal to regularized households. However, in Manipur even the land patta holders with Dag No. are evicted during the national lockdown and social distancing due to Covid-19 disease epidemics.
Whenever the issue pertaining to eviction of tribal forest dwellers come, the provisions of the Forests Rights Act. 2006 shall be reflected, however, the State government only mentioned the Forest Act, 1927 and 1971 which is illegal. And the Commissioner of Director of the TA&Hills shall be made a part in decision making. However, the State Government has failed to do so. The eviction notices were served on 21st and 23rd April respectively and the eviction was done on 24th April which is extremely inhumane and also violate right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution and Human Rights.