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Land Policies in Assam

Land Policies during British Rule

    1. Land Policies Prior to 1870
      • Large areas were granted for tea cultivation at favourable terms under various sets of Grant Rules, from time to time, as indicated below:
        (a)Waste Land Grants Rules of 1838
        (b)Old Assam Rules of 1854
        (c)Free Simple Rules of 1862

        The Revised Free Simple Rules, 1874 and New Lease Rule of 1876 were also framed. Lands in Sylhet (i.e. Cachar Portion) have been taken up for Tea cultivation under various Rules, particularly under Jangalbari Rules, 1884.

      • Permanently settled estates were created during the time of Lord Cornwallis in and around 1793 in Bengal, Bihar and Odissa (Orissa). Subsequently, the system was exteded to Tamilnadu, Benaras districts of UP and middle part of Koch Kingdom (part of present Goalpara District), whole sylhet districts (part of present Karimganj District). The holders of the Permanently settled Estates were Proprietors nad were known as Zamindars and the Land Tenure System is otherwise known as Zamindari system. The Land Revenue (Kushiyara) System prevalent in the surama and Barak Valley was somewhat different from that was in practice in Brahmaputra Valley. The permanently settled estate in the then Sylhet were classified under the following names (a) Permanently settled Waste Land Grants, (b) Dassana, (c) Illam Daimi, (d) Halabadi etc. In case of large estates, the owners were known as Zamindar or Talukdar and those whom the lands were sublet were known as Patni. Large temporary settled estates were Illam which could be sublet to actual cultivators or middle man. In case such middle man was known as Mirasdar. The temporary settled estates of Sylhet proper were known locally under the following names (a) Illam, (b) Nankar Patwarigeeri etc..

        The revenue survey in Sylhet was carried out in 1860-66. It was called "Thakbast" Survey in the sense that "thak" or demarcation marks of the estates were under taken. Illam Settlement Rules, 1876 were under taken for Resettlement and Reassessment of revenue.

    2. Policy Resolution, 1870

      The British Government adopted a systematic Land Settlemt Rules in 1870. The Settlement Rules, 1870 were the first public declaration on the part of Government of the rights in land possessed by the cultivators of the soil.

      • The settlement was to be made with the Occupant Cultivators.
      • The permanent holdings were to be heritable and transferable on the condition that transfers are registered.
      • The term of settlement of land held permanently was to be ordnarily ten years, and lease so given guranteed him against enhancement of assessment for the term of the lease.
      • Lands brought under cultivation during the currency of a settlement were to be assessed on actual measurement year by year.
      • The revenue to be collected by the Mauzadar placed in charge of fiscal circle.
    3. The Decennial Settlement Rules, 1883

      In 1883, the Decennial (happening every ten years or continuing for ten years) Settlement Rules were introduced. The settlement effected under these rules were known as the first decennial settlement of Assam proper which term was used to mean the five upper districts of the Brahmapura Valley. It took effect from the 1st April, 1883 and terminated on 31st March, 1893. As per provision of the rules, long term settlement of Khiraj Lands were laid down conferring the holding a permanent heritable and transferable right. With the introduction of systematic Settlement Rules, 1870, cadastral survey was conducted in 1882 for regular preparation of records lof cultivable and inhabitable areas.

    4. Land Policy Resolution, 1939

      Land Policy Resolution adopted on 5th Nov, 1939 declared that all persons whether immigrants on non-immigrants should be evicted from PGRs and VGRs. It also proposed to constitute "Prohibited area to take protective measures for Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Classes.

    5. Land Policy Resolution, 1940 (on 21st June, 1940)

      It was decided to introduce "Development Schemes" which apparently were meant primarily for immigrant settlement but the Scheme attracted considerable criticism.

    6. Land Policy during Governor's Rule

      With the end of Saddulla's Ministry in Assam on 13th December, 1941, the Governoe took over the charge on 25th December, 1941. During Governor's Rule, the "Development Schemes" were abandoned and the "Colonization" Schemes were reverted. The following classes of immigrants were to get preference in settlement within the colonization area:-

      • Those Settlement Holders whose lands were eroded.
      • Those who purchased annual lands in closed system (i.e. closed to immigrants by the line system).
      • Those who were for some years continuously in unauthorized occupation in Reserves. If possible, they should get settlement in colonization areas. Premium was charged in colonization area at Rs. 5 per bigha.
    7. Land Policy Resolution, 1842

      The basic provision of the resolution is that three classes of immigrants must first be accomodated. After they have been settled, additional land available will be allotted to those applicants who have been longest in the province specially those who came to Assam before 1st January, 1938.

    8. Resolution on Land Settlement, 1943

      Government had adopted the resolution that-

      • In the districts of Kamrup and Darrang, to encourage further settlement of the indigenous population in the submontane area; and in other parts of the districts to add to colonization areas by opening more lands for immigrant population and particularly by dereserving lands reserved for professional grazers, when there were found to surplus to requirements.
      • In the district of Nowgong, to proceed with the development scheme outlined in the Government of Assam's Resolution of June, 1940, whereby blocks of land will be apportoined to different communities according to their needs. Here also the surplus portion of professional grazing reserves had been opened to settlement in the same way.
      • In the districts of Sivasagar and Lakhimpur, Surplus Reserves were opened for settlement of indiginous people.
    9. Resolution on Land Settlement, 1945 (15th January)

      Some of the basic provisions of the Resolution were:-

      • A scheme of Land Settlements under a plan for settlement of available waste lands immediately to be initiated in the 4 (four) lower districts of Assam Valley with landless people of all classes in the province praying for lands, application from those amongst them who have come from outside the province before first january, 1938.
      • Under the plan in the Scheme, lands will be allotted to the members of the various communities according to their requirement in blocks which may vary in size according to the availability of lands in the locality.
      • Special provision will be made for protection of the tribal classes by constituting a tribal belt in the submontan tracts where they predominate.
      • A standing advisory committee consisting initially of the members of the conference convened on the 16th December, 1944 will be constituted for the province and a small district committee in each of the three principal districts.
      • Planned settlement i.e. settlement to those from outside the village after keeping 30 percent of the cultivable waste lands in underdeveloped village i.e. village with more than 200 bighas of Waste lands settlement was not to exceed 20 bighas per family of 5 members or less and 30 bighas in the case of larger family.
      • Muslim immigrants from East Bengal who came before 1st January, 1938 were to be created as equally entitled to get settlement as the landless indigenous persons.
      • The tribal classes were to be protected by constitution of Tribal Belts and Blocks in areas predominantly occupied by them.