Until last fortnight, most nights in Mizoram were lit up by the red glow of forest fires. Long thin lines of flame, rising and falling along the contours of the hills, ate their way up through the forest. It was jhum time in the state, when farmers who practice the traditional practice of slash-and-burn cultivation torch large sections of jungle so that they can begin planting next season’s crops.
In Mizoram, as in other parts of the North East, the forests are owned by the local community. There is little individually-owned farmland. Each year, villages burn a part of their community forest to clear land for farming. The next year, they move to a new tract, leaving the previous one fallow for the soil to recover, returning to it after some years.
This year, the administration set March 15 as the deadline for burning forests. And so, in the evenings, even in the state’s capital of Aizawl, one could see thick tendrils of smoke rising from its surrounding hills. In the mornings, one woke up to see wisps of soot and burnt leaves on the ground and in the air.
in 2011, the congress government in mizoram launched NLUP — new land use policy. ostensibly to get farmers out of jhum cultivation. in this story, i take stock of how the programme is working. and find that it has been subverted by the state government into nothing a tool for gathering voters by doling out patronage.
For weeks now, Congress and the BJP have been clubbing each other over land allotments.The attack started with the Congress alleging that the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had given large tracts of land at dirt-cheap rates to infrastructure tycoon Gautam Adani, an industrialist Modi is widely perceived as close to. The BJP rubbished these allegations. Raking up, among other things, Robert Vadra’s land deals. As for Adani, he gave a series of interviews saying the value of the land went up due to the investments he made made.
However, both sides are being economical with the truth. Here is what neither is telling you.
Land is one of the biggest commons that is being handed out for what Harvard’s Michael Walton calls ‘Rent Sharing’. See this story for context. Given that both the Congress and the BJP are blasting each other for dubious land deals, this story takes a look at two states, the Congress-ruled Haryana and the BJP-ruled Gujarat, and finds that both have a lot of explain as land transactions go.