Chhotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act-1908 came into existence to safeguard rights of the tribals, especially on their traditional landholdings.
It is not very clear how much the Act has been successful in assuring the rights to the traditional dwellers, though it is an open secret that it has denied them access to bank credits, thus hampering them financially. Latest figures suggest that bank loans to Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste have moved backwards from Rs 2,891.55 crore to Rs 2,065.09 crore during half year period ending September, 2011.
The credit share of ST/SC in overall credit, continuing with downhill trend, has clocked 5.25 per cent in aforesaid period. The share has decreased from 8.71 per cent that was earlier. Specifics say that as on September 30, 2011, STs of Jharkhand have been successful in securing Rs 1,344.21 crore as credit that is merely 3.42 per cent of the total loan disbursed by all public sector, private sector, Regional Rural Banks and Cooperative Banks functioning in the State.
This share is further negligible in respect of private banks when it comes down to as low as 0.10 per cent of the total credit given to the tribal communities. Even the lead banks of the State, comprising State Bank of India, Bank of India and Allahabad Bank, have sanctioned only 3.91 per cent of their loans to STs during the half-yearly period.
The reason is not tough to mark upon and banking fraternities of the State admit that fortifying provisions in the CNT Act had been the discouraging factor as far as approval of credit to the marginalised section of society is concerned. “We have raised the issue in the meetings of SLBC (State Level Bankers Committee) and also with the Government officials. But the provisions (in the Act) are so stringent and also politically sensitive that officials say ‘nothing is possible’. After all, banks can only mortgage when they keep something as security in return. But the provisions are not such and we are forced to backtrack,” said an official associated with SLBC.
SLBC, in its recommendations to the Government, has touched the issue and recommended amendment in the Act to “enable the farmers and entrepreneurs to offer land as collateral security for raising credit.”
Denying loan has resulted into laggard development of tribal land. People associated with tribal welfare organisations also admit that several pieces of land, carrying immense commercial value, are lying fallow in search of resources and thus being deprived of a handsome income prospect. “Provision in the Act should certainly be relaxed in a way that it can pave way for loan against the land. At least the tribals can earn rent if not sell the flat to someone else. Otherwise, the provision is taking the tribals backward,” said Soma Munda, Assistant Director of Jharkhand Tribal Welfare Research Institute.
He denied that any suggestion in this regard from his side has gone to the Government as furore has erupted in the State over modifications in the Act. “They have not asked for it. We act on the instructions given,” said Munda. Deputy Programme Director of Jharkhand Tribal Development Society, Manoj Sinha also advocates the adjustments to enable the tribals to access bank credit. “The matter should also be discussed in TAC meetings and politics should not suppress the actual development of tribes.”