Aizawl, Aug 1 : The distortions in the flagship New Land Use Policy (NLUP) of the ruling Congress, which helped the party come back to power in 2008, has made the situation unenviable for it now ahead of the next year's Assembly election.
Aimed to benefit the working classes in both urban and rural areas, the New Land Use Policy (NLUP) was formally launched on January 14, 2011.
But the government received a jolt when many cows for distribution to the beneficiaries under the scheme died due to transportation fatigue and infection with Foot and Mouth Disease since April.
At least 169 cows out of 788 cows imported from Kurnal in Haryana and Ludhiana in Punjab have died, A H and Veterinary department director Dr L B Sailo said.
The trouble faced by the NLUP beneficiaries and the government has given ammunition to the opposition parties, including the Mizo National Front, which accuses the government of 'apathy' towards the plight of the NLUP beneficiaries.
It is not only the beneficiaries who suffered, but also some families in Sihphir and Durtlang near Aizawl who have been rearing cattle for years whose cows died due to FMD after the arrival of the cows from Haryana and Punjab in the two villages.
The state AH and Veterinary department officials, however, maintain that the FMD was already there in the villages as the "NLUP cows" were also infected with FMD 'O' which has been prevalent in Mizoram, not in Punjab and Haryana.
"The cows died due to sheer stress after being transported from North India by trucks and by spending 15 unrelenting days," Dr L B Sailo said.
Dr Sailo also said that the government would take all possible steps to ensure that the NLUP beneficiaries would not lose money in the process but would be able to carry on their trade.
The state government proposes allocation of Rs 2,907 crore.
An amount of Rs 90 crore was allocated for the ambitious project out of which Rs 1,269.80 crore would be disbursed to around 1.2 lakh families (beneficiaries) during a period of five years.
Almost half of the families would be assisted under the scheme as the number of households in Mizoram, as per the Census 2011 is 2,57,581.
According to the approach paper to the NLUP, agriculture sector would have the highest number of beneficiaries at around 31,600 followed by beneficiaries under horticulture and veterinary sectors at 28,800 and 21,860 respectively.
Under forest sector around 10,700 beneficiaries are proposed to be engaged in bamboo trade while 9,000 families and 3,000 families would be assisted under Soil and Water Conservation and fisheries sectors respectively.
Around 6,500 families would also receive the benefits of the NLUP under Sericulture and the same number of families under Micro-enterprise while around 3,000 beneficiaries would be under handloom industries.
Vice Chairman of the NLUP Implementing Board, P.L. Thanga, a retired IAS officer, says that the land-based project would not only boost economy of the state, the NLUP would also replenish degraded forests in the state.
"The flagship programme of this government would be instrumental in re-forestation of 60 per cent of the territory of the state, protection of wildlife and renewing water sources," Thanga says.
The NLUP may not abolish jhumming, the destructive and primitive slash and burn way of shifting cultivation overnight, the state government policy makers say, however, expressing optimism that at least 15 per cent of the land would be utilised for permanent farming after implementation of the scheme.
They also say that 10 per cent of the state's 21,087 square kilometres territory would be protected under public reserve area, while another 10 per cent of the area would be preserved as forest supply reserve forest as was done in the Mizo tribal society even before the advent of the British colonialists.
Beside the deaths of cows to be distributed to the beneficiaries, the scheme also has its initial hurdles which the opposition parties exploited to the hilt.
The fact that many people were angry due to the late implementation of the flagship programme was clearly illustrated by the fact that the ruling Congress could manage to barely win the first Aizawl Municipal Council polls – that also by forging an alliance with the Zoram Nationalist party (ZNP).
The Congress-ZNP alliance bagged ten seats while the opposition MNF and the Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) combine won in nine seats.
Political observers predict that the Congress, which returned to power after being in political wilderness for two consecutive terms by promising NLUP to the people, and the same NLUP may result in its downfall.
However, the government still has almost one and a half years to rectify the implementation of the programme and win back confidence of the people.