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Mostly Chauvinism

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The ‘improvements’ brought to the ‘land laws’ in Uttarakhand by the Pushkar Singh Dhami Government, based on the recommendations of a committee constituted for the purpose, will be too much for some, and not enough for others. Ever since the state was formed, there have been chauvinistic demands that ‘outsiders’ be prevented from acquiring land in the state. For them, the ideal situation would be that in Himachal Pradesh. It is a fact that the provisions in that state played a role in its development but, after a point, it has lagged behind purely for this reason.

In today’s world, particularly, immigrants everywhere are playing a major role in taking economies and nations forward. The never-ending tales of how well Indians are doing everywhere are evidence of this. So, if a state denies certain rights to its fellow citizens, it is shooting itself in the foot. And what if other states were to reciprocate by denying land ownership rights to those hailing from Uttarakhand? So, it is advisable that the more extreme amongst those demanding exclusion of outsiders are prevented from hijacking the agenda.

Former Chief Secretary, the late RS Tolia had once stated that ‘land is not a commodity’ in this context, which thinking reflected in the formulation of the laws. But, it is a commodity, and its sale and purchase, over the past couple of decades has become a source of livelihood for many locals. The price of land reflects economic growth and restrictions on its sale will dampen the economy by preventing monetisation of this important asset. It’s like members of the Scheduled Tribes who own vast tracts of land but cannot sell it to anyone other than those from their own community. As a result, many live from hand to mouth. Some transfer land to others through legal trickery but get only a small percentage of its actual value. The entire state should not be brought to this condition through ill-advised populism.

It is true that comparatively wealthier people from other parts are eager to buy land for various purposes. Many just wish to be closer to nature and the Himalayas, while others are investing for the future. Some, of course, intend to build multi-storey flats with little regard for the long term environmental and other consequences. It is the latter kind who should have regulations targeted at them to prevent exploitative activity. But Uttarakhand, overall, cannot be kept from becoming wealthier.

And if it is alright for a soldier from Kerala, Nagaland or UP to shed blood on the local soil while defending the borders of Uttarakhand, how can he or she be told that they cannot live here as residents?