Monday, January 25, 2016

Continued landlessness & homelessness can lead to civil war

While the proposed Bihar Right to Homestead Bill, 2014, National Right to Homestead Bill and National Land Reforms Policy is yet to see the light of the day, a Model of Community Based Approach has emerged in the homestead land in four blocks of Gaya. This Model underlines the limitations of pre-existing Bihar Privileged Persons Homestead Tenancy Act, 1947 that granted the landless, and the Dalit or Adivasi communities, in 1948, the right to ownership over the land they have been living on. It makes a case for enhancing the size of homestead land in the proposed Bill.

This Model was discussed at a programme on Homestead land in Gaya organised by Deshkal Society and Department of Revenue and Land Reforms, Government of Bihar at A.N Sinha Institute, Patna on January 24, 2016. 

The programme began with a presentation by Sanjay Kumar, Secretary, Deshkal Society, Delhi on the Model in the first session.

Building on its earlier work in 74 villages spread over three blocks, consisting of 6,800 Dalit households where it had succeed in delivering 100 per cent entitlement to homestead land to Dalit communities in the first phase of the pilot project, Deshkal Society and its partner organisations establised and strengthened 480 village level community based organisations (CBOs), 54 panchayat level CBOs, four block level CBOsand one district level CBO. Through its efforts, 10426 applications for settlement of homestead land and distribution of surplus government land has been filed. 8129 among these have received their legal entitlements in terms of Parcha and Parwana.

Commenting on the presentation in the first session, drawing on lessons from American Civil war, as a panelist Dr. Gopal Krishna, environmentalist and social activist underlined that there is a potential for civil war if landlessness and homelessness continuedThe existing rules and provisions for homestead land have denied access to poorer communities. The accountability of erring public institutions need to be fixed. This session was chaired by rof. Nawal Kishore Chaoudhury, eminent economist and former Principal, Patna College, Patna.

The participants included Vyasji, Principal Secretary, Department of Revenue and Land Reforms, Government of Bihar, Prof. P.P. Ghosh, ADRI, Patna, Prof. Mahendra Narayan Karna, former Professor, NEHU, Sat Narayan Madan, Social Activist, Patna, Anindo Banerjee, Praxis, Patna, Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma, Author and Consultant, Delhi. Dr Mithilesh Mishra from Department of Revenue and Land Reforms, Government of Bihar was also present on the occasion besides researchers like Manoj Tiwary. Dr Sharma said that landlessness and homelessness is linked to powerlessness. 

There was a suggestion that the proposed Bihar Right to Homestead Bill should minimize administrative steps and stages for claiming legal entitlements for homestead land as it poses difficulty for Dalits and oppressed sections. It should bestow authority in processing of applications, monitoring and delivery of homestead lands to the Block level government institutions. The Bihar Right to Homestead Bill should ensure a minimum size 10 Decimal of Homestead Land to landless and houseless households instead of 5 Decimal as per current government provisions. The proposed Bihar Right to Homestead Bill should be put in the public domain invite comments from the concerned citizens before is finalization. 

The role of Kisana Sabha, socialist and left parties in raising the issue of homestead land was recalled by several speakers.  

Deshkal has been supported in its efforts by Central Government’s Planning Commission and now NITI Ayog besides UK Government and Bihar Government. 

Meanwhile, State Government’s Joint Land Reforms Core Committee has been acting to get a Right to Homestead Act enacted at least since 2014. Similar efforts are facing labour pains at the level of the Central Government. Several members of the Committee were present during the deliberations. The minutes of this Committee must be uploaded on government's website to ensure transparency and accountability. 

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