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Controversial tribal land sale amendment put on hold

Bhubaneswar: In response to widespread discontent and reservations from various quarters, Roopa Roshan Sahoo, the Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the ST & SC Development and Minorities, Backward Classes Welfare Department in Odisha, has issued a directive to suspend the recently approved amendment allowing the sale of tribal land to non-tribals.

The controversial cabinet decision on November 14, 2023, to implement changes to Regulation 2, 1956, met with criticism and concerns from diverse sections of society. The amendment, aimed at modifying The Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (By Scheduled Tribes) Regulation, 1956, was perceived as contentious and faced anomalies in its interpretation.

Recognizing the escalating concerns and requests for a reevaluation of the proposed amendments, Secretary Roopa Roshan Sahoo has urged the state government to withhold the implementation until further recommendations are received from the Tribal Advisory Council.

The amendment, approved by the state cabinet, had allowed tribal individuals to sell their immovable property, primarily land, to non-tribals. The initial regulation in 1956 restricted such transactions, and in 2002, amendments were made, permitting tribal land sales exclusively to other tribals.

Additionally, members of the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community could only mortgage their immovable property to public financial institutions for agricultural purposes.

The new amendment facilitated ST individuals to sell their land after obtaining written permission from the sub-collector. Moreover, tribal people could mortgage their property for diverse purposes, including constructing a residential house, funding higher education, pursuing self-employment or establishing small-scale industries, apart from agricultural activities. The order stipulated an appeal process to the collector if the sub-collector denied permission within six months.

The November 14 cabinet order argued that the amendment was essential to address obstacles faced by educated youths within ST communities. This decision, rooted in the recommendations of the Scheduled Tribes Advisory Council’s meeting on July 11, aimed to provide more financial flexibility to tribal landowners, particularly the educated youth. However, given the growing discontent, the decision has been temporarily put on hold, pending further deliberation by the Tribal Advisory Council.

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