Dharmendra & Sasmit Patra Spat In Rajya Sabha Over Odisha’s Withdrawn Tribal Land Transfer Decision

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: A face-off between Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and BJD MP Sasmit Patra was witnessed in Rajya Sabha.

The spat erupted during a discussion in Rajya Sabha over the Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Order Amendment Bill, 2024 which was passed on Tuesday.

Speaking during the discussion, the Union Minister sought a warning from Delhi to Odisha over the Tribal Land Transfer measure, which had been approved by the state Cabinet and later withdrawn.

Dharmendra claimed that the Odisha government through a cabinet decision tried to grab the lands of the Scheduled Tribes which is protected under Article 244 (Prevention of Land Alienation) by tampering with the act. The state government had decided to sell the land of the ST community, he said.

The state government later withdrew the decision following resentment among the tribal communities, he said, adding that protests were also held over the decision and the government had to withdraw it. “I thank the Odisha government for this rollback on the decision. They were spared a blunder in the nick of time,” he said.

“However, once somebody has tasted blood, they will definitely return to the place where it is available. And this is about the lucrative land. So I request the House to send a stern warning from Delhi to the people who are trying to tamper the Constitutional system in Odisha. Not only Odisha, but Delhi should warn all the states to not tamper with the rights of the scheduled tribes anywhere,” he said.

Reacting sharply to Dharmendra’s statement, Sasmit Patra termed it an attempt to belittle the Odisha Cabinet which is a Constitutional institution.

He said the minister has reflected on the Odisha Cabinet which is a Constitutional authority similar to the Council of States, because it draws its power from the Constitution. Therefore, it is unfortunate to belittle the Odisha Cabinet, said Patra.

If the Minister thinks that certain things have happened in Odisha, he can take up the matter with his own government instead up raising the issue in Parliament, the BJD MP said.

Patra further said that there was no proposal to sell the tribal land to anyone. There are many tribal people who want to mortgage their lands for the higher studies of their children, but cannot do so because of the law. This was the thinking behind the Cabinet decision, he said.

However, the proposal has been rescinded by the Cabinet and to seek a warning from the Centre is an attack on the federal structure, he said.

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