TNN Sep 30, 2011, 11.10AM ISTJAIPUR: After taking lead in helping the country draw up the Rigth to Information Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Rajasthan has become the first state in the country to have drafted a policy underlining the importance and the need to preserve and secure common land (commons) in rural areas.
The government has issued a series of orders to facilitate the process and aims to complete the demarcation of such land within the purview of the gram panchayats and under common use such as grazing lands, common ponds and their catchment areas, playgrounds. The state government has also issued orders facilitating the utilisation of MGNREGA funds for improving the productivity of common land and has issued operational guidelines.
According to M S Rathore, director of Centre of Environment and Development Studies, "The Rajasthan Common Land Policy is the second attempt of the state government at decentralisation. Earlier too, the state government framed its water policy which too aims at making the government act just as a facilitator while the common people get involved in its conservation and supply. Here too the government intends to act as a facilitator while involving communities in planning, regeneration and management of common land."
Rathore was speaking at a state-level orientation workshop on 'The Commons' at the officers' training institute to deliberate upon the policy development and consult a larger audience, including government officials, PRI representatives and members of NGOs on how these may be implemented effectively across the state. The workshop was organised by the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) along with the department of rural development and panchayati raj and presided over by minister Bharat Singh.
Common land is a crucial source of livelihood for rural households providing wide ranging contribution to the village economy from food, fodder, timber to farming system, animal husbandry, resource conservation and recharge of ground water. However, over the years loss due to encroachment has been taking place threatening its extent and health.
The Rajasthan Common Land Policy aims at giving the gram panchyats, gram sabhas and ward sabhas the responsibility of the management of the common land, making sure that the poorer sections of the community have special claims on produce from common land, involving NGOs, academic and research institutes for assisting village communities in management of such land and stopping privatisation of common land.
The workshop discussed the draft policy and the recent Supreme Court judgment on commons.