Courtesy: New Age, Dhaka, Front page, Oct 19, 2010
Govt hesitant about CHT land survey
4,500 appeals received for settlement of land disputes
The government is in a dilemma over initiating a land survey in the hill districts of Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Rangamati while over 4,500 disputes over land filed with the Land Commission still remain pending.
The land ministry has convened an inter-ministry meeting to be held today (Sunday) in Rangamati with representatives of the regional council and other stakeholders to try to remove the deadlock in the dispute settlement process.
The ethnic people in the hill districts have long been demanding settlement of the land disputes before the initiation of any land survey, said officials in the local administration.
‘The meeting will be open for discussions on any issues related to CHT lands…We want to create an environment of confidence to facilitate the solution of the land-related problems through discussions with all the stakeholders,’ land secretary Md Ataharul Islam told New Age on Saturday.
Land minister Rezaul Karim Hira is scheduled to be present as chief guest while state minister for CHT affairs Dipankar Talukdar will chair the meeting.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Settlement Commission had earlier asked the government to conduct a land survey in the hill districts to help settle the numerous land disputes that are causing conflict between ethnic people and Bengali settlers.
‘We have so far received around 4,500 applications seeking settlement of land disputes, of which 1,000 have been readied for disposal. We are taking time to see whether the government initiates the land survey,’ chairman of the CHT Land Commission Khademul Islam Chowdhury told New Age.
The disputes could be settled easily once the land survey was conducted in the CHT, home to various ethnic groups, he claimed. Through separate public announcements in March and May this year, the Land Commission asked the affected landowners in the hill districts to appeal to the commission.
The land ministry on 11 March, 2010 deferred the inter-ministry meeting on the CHT land survey after the representatives of the CHT regional council and district councils refused to attend the meeting until the disputes were settled. The ministry then decided to hold the meeting in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in mid-April to work out the modalities of the survey, but failed to do so.
The chairman of Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, better known as Santu Larma, asked the government in writing in early March to settle the land disputes before launching any survey.
The leaders of the ethnic minorities, as per the 1997 CHT accord, were supposed to help the Land Commission, constituted in 2001, in settling the disputes over land, said an official.
The chairman of the commission said that they had held a series of meetings last year and also told the land ministry to initiate steps for land survey, which originally began in 1986 and was suspended in 1988 after the abduction of two surveyors.
‘Land disputes cannot be settled without classification and specification of lands…The land administration here cannot function effectively as the areas are yet to be surveyed for proper demarcation,’ said Khademul, a retired judge who was appointed as the commission’s chief in July 2009.
He said that the authorities had conducted several land surveys in all the areas of the country except the hill districts which cover one-tenth of the total land of the country.