Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Maxwelton Estate Conundrum


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The 9-acre Maxwelton Estate has been under litigation for several years now. It’s one of those remnants of British acquisitions under a 99 year lease which was perhaps not taken possession of legally after the British left this region. Naturally land sharks then would have set their eyes on this prime land. In fact, a sizable chunk of revenue land around that area and elsewhere is converted to private land through subterfuge. That it would take a pressure group to step in and protect the land from so-called illegal settlers who have, over a period of time turned the entire place into a slum is characteristic of governance in Meghalaya. The district administration has been spineless in terms of protecting revenue land over a period of time. But whenever the district administration has taken it upon itself to evict illegal settlers from the river front (Wah Umkhrah) such as had happened in Polo- Fourth-Furlong- Demseiniong area, the courts have been quick to step in and the case continues interminably thereby exhausting the energies of administrators who are dragged into such cases.
Earlier, in 2017 the High Court had ruled that compensation to the claimant to the estate would have to be paid as per the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 whereas the claimant wanted to be paid at the rate payable in 2013. If the ownership of the Estate is established beyond reasonable doubt it is not understood why the State Government has not proceeded with the matter and allowed it to drag, thereby allowing the area to turn into a slum in the heart of Shillong. In 2019, the then Environment Minister, James Sangma had stated in a cabinet meeting that a public park would come up at the same disputed space – Maxwelton Estate at Kench’s Trace. If the matter was still sub-judice, how did the minister say that a park would be built there? Between then and now what action has the Government taken to ensure that it reclaims what is essentially revenue land? Interestingly, in 2019, James Sangma had stated that though the area was earlier claimed by JN Bawri, it is currently under the possession of the Government following a court case. If such is the case then should the Government not evict the illegal settlers who have been staying there over the years? The question that arises is also whether the Government has a record of all the revenue land under its possession. It is doubtful
Now the matter has reached a point of confrontation where the student’s body is building houses ostensibly to allow indigenous people to settle there. The students’ body is well aware that an ultimatum to the Government (district administration) is meaningless when the matter is sub-judice but how does that matter to it?


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