What has gone wrong in our system? None has care about prevailing poverty and hunger as well as wide-scale disparity In the Bharatvarsh, that is called India and Hindustan! Now it has become fashion to speak about corruption in our decadent society's system. Hardly, political leaders of all hues and the representatives of the so called civil society and Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) speak about sorry state of affairs among rural poor and adivasis , agriculture, education, health etc. Of course corruption is one of the main reasons in derailing welfare and development measures also, but voices of deprived lots, constituting over 78 percent population, are big deal. Corruption can be tackled by streamlining the rotten system under existing laws under the Constitution but hunger and poverty, lack of education, health could be faced with determination by launching welfare measures! Vision among the political leadership is lacking to face the alarming situation in the country. Are we moving towards worse scenario in the country where there will be no takers of peoples' voices ?
Neo-liberal economic policy in the last over 20 years, I strongly feel, is aggravating the situation. It is surprising that in India, there are no land records. Land reforms are hanging fire. Lands are accumulated in the hands of 10 to 15 percent population. Old feudal order is continuing! Many Acts and Laws for land reforms by almost all successive state governments and union governments were framed in over last 60 years but poor and landless increased by over 85 percent. Over 80 percent population are homeless and landless. What ever lands remained under their control specially in tribal belt are being acquired forcibly for setting industries by corporates and multi-nationals. In plain areas, also similar situation is prevailing! Apart from other states in India, Bihar is an example of bitter feudal and communal massacres in the country only because of wide disparity between rich and poor and ' no land and home to poor' although the Jawahar Lal Nehru government at the centre had made drastic amendment in the Constitution to abolish 'zamindari system' in the country. The then chief Minister of Bihar Dr S K Sinha was all opposed to abolition of 'zamindari system' and land reforms along with many chief ministers of the country, the dynamics of the then Bihar's Revenue Minister Krishna Ballabha Sahay impressed Pundit Nehru to go whole hog for land reforms in the entire country and in the process visionary Pundit Nehru had prepared road maps for equitable distribution of lands and houses to poor in the country! An amendment was carried out in the Right to Property under the Constitution and Zamindari system was abolished. But the time passed and nothing tangible were made for land reforms in the country!
In between, some thing tangible was made by the then Revenue Minister of Bihar K B Sahay on land reform fronts. Thousands of acres of land were taken away from land-owing classes and to little aspect lands were given to the landless and homeless. After some years, the land problem further aggravated in Bihar. The so called 'surplus lands' were given to the Bhoodan Bhumi Jagya Committee, led by Vinoda Bhave for distribution among landless and homeless. From there situation, worsened. Lands were distributed to them but sadly taken back forcibly by influential land-owing classes from poor people! Since than, massacres after massacres are being taking places between poor and feudal land-owing classes in Bihar. Naxal movements came to the fore because of atrocity of feudal land-owing classes towards poor and dalits in the successive years..( Please see my blog topic-Bihar is Known for Bitter Feudal-Communal Massacres in India, detailing deaths, killings and destruction's ). However, a ray of hope came out when the present chief minister Nitish Kumar came to power and announced distribution of lands to poor on the basis of the report of the Bandopadhaya committe, which Kumar had constituted just after assuming power about eight years back. Moreover, on the influences of his alliance partner-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and vested interests among feudal land-owing classes as well as many other political compulsions, Nitish Kumar retracted from his promises. And the situation remained where these were during successive rules in Bihar. On the other hand, huge lands are accumulated in the hands of a few thousands land-owners, neo-rich-political classes and intermediary castes people in Bihar. The same Nitish government had forcibly deported the President of Ekata Parishad P V Rajagopala from the state when during his year-long Jansamwad yara highlighting issues relating to land reforms, particularly the plight of the landless. Rajagopal was described a Maoists by Nitish government a few months back when he had visited Nawada district a few months back!
But land reforms had taken some roots earlier in Uttar Pradesh during the regime of the chief minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna and later during the left front government of the West Bengal led by Jyoti Basu. Some tangible reforms are even today are witnessed and landless have at least land for constructing home and some lands for farming under share cropping pattern in West Bengal. But the situation in other states are not encouraging. Feudal Andhra Pradesh has also failed to take any initiatives for land reforms. Worse position prevails in tribal belts including Odisha, Chhatishgarh, Jharkhand , Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat , Maharashtra and also many eastern states where tribal population are being forcibly evicted from their land, forest rights , water in the name locating industries by multinationals and corporates as well as neo-rich political classes.
Sadly, the law to acquire lands during British Raj is still under vogue. Many local restrictions in Adivasi belt about forest rights under various Laws under the Constitution are being violated by the government to acquire lands of tribals.During the year-long yatra and jansatyagrah by Rajagopala has found that government's policies have accentuated the plunder of agriculture and forest lands for corporate interests. The Yatra had begun from Kanyakumari on October 2 in 2011 and journeyed across the country and finally culminated into a foot march of over 50000 people in Gwalior on October 2, 2012. At least after several rounds of talks between Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and the representatives of Ekata Parishad led by its president P V Rajgopala signed an agreement at Agra during the period, which envisaged that the government will fulfil the promises to complete the land reform process. But a sense of caution among the senior activists was also witnessed taking into account the past experiences of similar negotiations. Five years ago, the Ekata Parishad had organised similar agitation with thousand of landless. At that time also , the government had taken notice of the agitation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had himself initiated deliberations and had announced the formation of National Land Reforms Council, led by prime minister himself and consisting of chief ministers, sociologists and actvistists.. But that body is yet to see the light of the day.
However, a ray of hope has arisen from the present agreement. The agreement stipulates that the ministry of rural development will initiate talks with all state government immediately and put out a draft of the policy for public debate and discussions in the next four to six months. Thereafter the draft will be finalised. The agreement has mainly stressed the need of statutory backing of the provisions of agricultural land to the landless poor in the backward district and home stead rights to the landless and shelter less poor in rural areas across the country. At least ten cents of land homestead lands to every poor, landless and shelter less rural households. It also focused effective and time-bound implementation of various laws enacted by the legislatures aimed at protecting the land rights of dalits, adivasis and other weaker and marginalised sections of society. Fast track courts to speed up of disposal of the cases pending in revenue and judicial courts.. Legal aid must be provided to socially deprived persons. The rural development ministry will coordinate with ministries of tribal affairs and panchayati raj to ensure effective implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA), which will empower gram sabhas to function more effectively in the implementation of the Act. It must be noted that the ministry of tribal affairs put a comprehensive guidelines for the implementation of revised rules and directives for the effective implementations of forest right and the states will be actively supporting them.. There must be advisories to the state governments to undertake thorough survey of forest and revenue boundaries in order to resolve disputes. Gram panchayats and gram sabhas will be fully involved in the survey and settlement process as well as updating of records governing common property resources.
Land reform is a big problem. Effective implementation of the land reform is the need of hour-otherwise the country, which is still dominated by poor , landless, and homeless, who may rise in revolt along with Maoists and Naxal elements, sympathising them.!