1) A Study of New Land Use Policy in Manipur and Mizoram

Amount allocated: 3.3 Lakh (330,000 Indian Rupees)

Study period: August 2016-March 2019

In the hill areas of India’s Northeastern region the traditional means of livelihood has been swidden cultivation, which is also known as shifting cultivation or locally called jhum. It involves clearing of forest, burning trees, weeds and bamboos and shifting the cultivation after a couple of years. In the last few decades this traditional means of livelihood has decreased due to the spread of education and people increasingly engaged in commercial and other allied activities. However, a substantial proportion of the population still continues to depend on forest products and jhumming as a means of livelihood. The rapid increase in population, ethnic conflicts and development induced displacements have also contributed to the increasing pressure on land and forest for livelihood. Jhum cultivation and unregulated land use system have caused depletion of forests, environmental degradation and productivity of the land.

In order to reduce these menaces the Shifting Cultivation Control Scheme was launched during the First Five-Year Plan of India (1951-56) in the states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Tripura. In Manipur, the Manipur Forest Rules (1971) was framed to manage and administer forests, particularly to curb swidden cultivation. A number of projects have also been implemented to control Jhum practice and better land use system by the state government without much success. In Mizoram the New Land Use Policy (NLUP) was first introduced by the state government on 24 October 1984 with the main objective of ending shifting cultivation. It resolved to reduce swiddening to at least 25 percent by the end of Seventh Five Year Plan.

Some of the main objectives of the NLUP are:

  • to put an end to the practice of shifting cultivation by weaning away farmers to adopt sustainable economic activities and induce jhumia families to take up alternative occupation by introducing commercial farming in lieu of subsistence farming;
  • to provide marketing outlet for produce obtained from NLUP programme;
  • to restore ecological balance through afforestation, improvement of surface and water management, introduction of new forest and land management system;
  • to ensure security of farmers by improving the income level of the poor through sustainable farming activities, micro enterprise and cottage industries and crop/animal/farmers insurance.

Over the years Mizoram is claimed to have achieved enormous success in the implementation of the NLUP programme through integrated and comprehensive planning. The NLUP of Mizoram continues to aim for accelerating the state’s GDP growth in agriculture sector and larger investment of private sector through farming. Apart from the geographical area specified for forest cover the remaining areas are intended for land-based development.

The success of the NLUP programme of Mizoram is considered to be worth emulating by many Northeastern states. The government of Manipur proposed its NLUP in 2014 broadly patterned on the successful model of Mizoram’s NLUP but to be suited to the needs and requirements of the state. The project in Manipur proposes to cover all the rural hill and valley villages and utilise land in a scientific approach coupled with traditional knowledge. It is proposed that the status quo of land ownership and tenureship system in operation in the state will remain unchanged. The challenge is not only in jhum areas but also in the traditionally non-jhum areas which is equally facing huge land degradation and soil erosion due to rising pressure on land as a result of rapid population growth in the past few decades. Through aforestation and other means it also seeks to protect, improve and manage the dwindling water resources in the state and also aims to avail the opportunities and as well as meet the challenges of free trade agreement between India and ASEAN by avoiding any damage to Manipur economy.

Pictures from field work

I received an amount of Rs. 19,500 under NLUP to cultivate passion fruit in the 2nd instalment. The President of Village Council allocated me this land for one year, and the continuation depends on how I look after the land. I hope to shift to sustainable cultivation soon.

Nemhoi, age 39 of Rengtekawn, Kolasib received 1 lakh to start this shop and benefited from Mizoram’s NLUP scheme.