JMM minister heads Munda panel on Nagri row
SUMAN K. SHRIVASTAVA
Ranchi, July 11: Governor Syed Ahmed believes the state government should scout for alternative sites for three national institutes of learning in the wake of violent protests by tribals who are opposed to the campuses coming up on 227 acre of their “agricultural” land at Nagri on the outskirts of the state capital.
The governor’s opinion was articulated to The Telegraph in an exclusive interview today moments before chief minister Arjun Munda constituted a high-level committee to find a way out of the Nagri land acquisition controversy after Jharkhand High Court gave the government a week’s time to begin talks with the unwilling villagers and work out a solution.
Yesterday, a division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Tatia and Justice Jaya Roy asked the state government to decide whether “rule of road” or “rule of law” should prevail in Jharkhand, apparently alluding to the violent protests of July 4 when Nagri villagers clashed with police at the site where permanent campuses are coming up for Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Ranchi, National University for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) and Indian Institute for Information Technology (IIIT).
Munda, therefore, wasted no time in setting up the committee today and shrewdly named as its head revenue and land reforms minister Mathura Mahto, a leader of the JMM that has openly sided with the villagers even though both the high court and Supreme Court have upheld the Nagri land acquisition.
Also, JMM chief Shibu Soren was scheduled to address villagers at a rally in Nagri on Sunday, a day before the next high court hearing.
Among the other members of the committee were revenue secretary N.N. Pandey, finance secretary Sukhdev Singh, South Chotanagpur commissioner Surendra Singh and deputy commissioner of Ranchi Vinay Choubey.
According to sources in the government, the chief minister’s brief to the committee was to hold talks with villagers and others associated with the agitation to find a way out so that construction of boundary walls of the institutes could resume.
The state government has already indicated it was ready to renegotiate the compensation package for the 227 acre land acquired in 1957-58.
The idea behind appointing Mahto as head of the negotiating committee was to ensure that the JMM, one of two allies of the BJP-led government, acted with restraint and did not use the controversy to show off its tribal credentials.
For, both Jharkhand High Court as well as Supreme Court have already upheld the legality of the land acquisition, effected sometime in the ’50s to accommodate expansion plans of Birsa Agriculture University and to set up a seed farm.
Mahto said he would begin his job in a day or two.
“I will examine land records and court orders and protect the interests of the villagers. I will give the report before the court hears the case on Monday,” he told The Telegraph.
Amid Munda’s efforts at initiating a dialogue, Governor Ahmed has said that he wanted the state government to explore the possibility of locating barren land to shift out the three institutions from Nagri.
He said the Congress, JVM and various tribal bodies had staged protests after the police lathicharge on Nagri villagers on July 4, seeking his intervention.
“But I made it clear to them that I had my limitations under the Constitution to do so (intervene) when the case is pending in high court. However, I want the government to find an alternative solution to the imbroglio,” Ahmed told The Telegraph today.
Ahmed also said that he had received a home department report on alleged police excesses during the July 4 protests and was in the process of examining it.Courtesy:TheTelegraph