Thursday, October 18, 2012

Government sets up task force to work on land reform issues

18 Oct, 2012, 09.19AM IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: A week after agreeing to take forward the unfinished agenda on land reform, the government on Wednesday set up a task force headed by the rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and Tribal Affairs minister V Kishore Chandra Deo.

The constitution of the 15-member task force on land reforms was one of the decisions of the Agra agreement.

Last week, Ramesh reached an agreement land reforms leader PV Rajagopal in Agra to put in place a time-bound effort to formulating a national policy on land reform. A time frame of six months had been agreed upon. The 10 point Agra agreement brought to a halt the 350 kilometres march from Gwalior to Delhi by 60,000 poor landless people. Rajagopal, who is a member of national land reforms council and founder of Ekta parishad had made it clear that in the absence of tangible efforts by the central governments over the six months, the landless people would resume their march or jan satyagraha to Delhi.

With the clock ticking, Ramesh has put together an action plan with time lines and point persons for each component of the agreement.

Planning Commission member Mihir Shah and Vijayanand of the department of land resources have been tasked with working on the draft National Land Reforms Policy and Strategy. A time frame of 90 days has been put down for this effort. In the agreement, the government said that it will initiate a dialogue with states, since land is a state subject. The agreement stated that the government would prepare a draft land reforms policy for public debate and discussion in the next 4-6 months, after which the policy will be finalised.

Another key component of the agreement was the formulation of draft central legislations on provision of agricultural Land and a separate legislation on homestead land. This has been a central demand by Rajagopal and Ekta Parishad. K Raju, secretary to the Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council is the pointsperson for this effort, a time frame of 90 days has been fixed.

Other components of the action plan include preparing a draft redesigned Indira Awas Yojna, which will provide a revised unit costs and provision for homestead as part of shelter or independent of shelter. A time frame of 45 days has been set. Over the next 60 days, the rural development ministry will work with the law ministry to draft a centrally sponsored scheme of Fast Track Land Tribunals. The Ekta Parishad and the NAC will work on preparing draft advisories to the States on land related issues. These advisories will be discussed at the first meeting of the task force.

The 15 member taskforce includes Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, P V Rajagopal, Trinamool Congress MP D bandopadhaya, BN Yugandhar, National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, Praveen Jha, economist Bina Agarwal, legal expert Videh Upadhyay, national Advisory Council secretary K Raju, and four secretaries of the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Tribal Affairs and Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Task force set up to look into land redistribution
Prasad Nichenametla, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 18, 2012

A day after a group of ministers finalised the contentious land acquisition bill, the government has tasked itself with a much-litigious job unfinished for decades - land reform and redistribution of land among the landless. A task force chaired by rural development minister Jairam Ramesh
and co-chaired by tribal affairs minister KC Deo was constituted on Wednesday to work on the issues.

The creation of the task force was one of the decisions arrived at in an agreement signed last week between the government and Jan Satyagrah activists, who have been protesting for a National Land Reforms Policy.

Five years ago, UPA-I had promised a land reforms council headed by PM Manmohan Singh. The council, however, never met since it was constituted in January 2008.

Now, the 11-member task force will come up with a draft land reforms policy in six months. A final policy accompanied by a strategy will set terms for ceiling on surplus land and redistribution of surplus and government land among the landless poor.

Ramesh said the first meeting will be held on November 16. "We will get going on our task now," he said.

"The earlier council, with PM as head and a dozen CMs as members, proved an impractical proposition. We are hopeful the task force will address our aspirations, failing which we can re-launch the agitation from Agra where we stopped on assurance of the government," PV Rajagopal, leader of the agitation told HT.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Formulate law to protect water bodies: HC to state

TNN Oct 12, 2012

CUTTACK: The Orissa high court on Thursday directed the state government to formulate a law to protect water bodies in the state within two years.

Taking serious note of the dying water bodies in the state, especially ponds and historical tanks, a division bench of B P Das and M M Das also directed the state government to ensure that the existing ponds did not fall prey to land grabbers.

The high court gave the direction while adjudicating a PIL on depleting water bodies in Cuttack. The PIL had raised the point that the city, which once had more than 1,400 tanks and water bodies, was hardly left with 200 now. The court observed that protection of natural water bodies and ponds is akin to honouring the most basic of fundamental rights, the right to life, which is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

In order to put a check on the illegal conversion of Jalasaya kisam land into homestead land, the high court has directed the state government to form a seven-member committee under the leadership of revenue divisional commissioner, Cuttack, which will scrutinize the applications seeking conversion of Jalasaya kisam land into homestead land.

"Earlier, tehsildars were permitted to clear such applications for conversion of Jalasaya kisam land. In order to check illegal conversions, the high court has directed the state government to form a seven-member committee consisting of environmentalist, district collector and other district officials. The committee will thoroughly scrutinize applications seeking conversion of Jalasaya kisam land to homestead purposes before giving its nod," said Pravat Das, amicus curie in the case.

He further said the committee would also conduct a survey as how many unauthorized buildings or structures in the city have been constructed over Jalasaya kisam land and would take stringent action against the violators. The committee would also ensure measures for renovation and restoration of the ponds, said Das.

The High Court judgement asking Government of Odisha to formulate a law to protect Water


BHUBANESWAR: The Supreme Court has already given a historic judgement in March 2011 directing all state governments for freeing water bodies from encroachment. Odisha must take immediate measures to revive and bring to life all common water bodies of the state.

WIO has been asking the state government to formulate a Policy on Water Bodies. The Government must immediately come out with such a policy taking participation of all sections of people.

We welcome the High Court judgement asking Government of Odisha to formulate a law to protect Water Bodies

Sambalpur, 12th October 2012 – As we come to know from media reports, the Honourable High Court of Odisha have directed the govt. of Odisha to formulate a law to protect water bodies of the state within two years. WIO welcomes this judgement and thanks the Honourable Court for this.

On January 28, 2011 the honorable Supreme Court of India, in a historic judgement, had directed all the State Governments of the country to prepare schemes for eviction of illegal/unauthorized occupants of Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat/ Poramboke/ Shamlat land saying these must be restored to the Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat for the common use of villagers of the village. WIO had then urged upon the Govt. of Odisha to see to the issues raised by this judgment and take appropriate action to free all water bodies of the state from all sorts of encroachments and ensure their protection and revival from the destructive forces including pollution from industries and urbanization.

As of now we don’t know what steps the state government has taken in that regard. What we can see from ground realities is that more and more water bodies are being encroached by the rich and powerful both in urban and rural areas. Now, after the High Court judgement, the government must immediately step into action and free all water bodies of the state from encroachment.

Surface water bodies play a major role in retaining rain water and recharging the local ecology. They are also a major livelihood support system for many poor farmers and communities depending on fishery. WIO therefore urges upon the government to immediately declare a Plan of Action to free all water bodies of state from all forms of encroachment.

Freeing water bodies from encroachments would also lead to some discontent among local people and some people might have to be displaced. The government must sensitively look into such issues and where it involves displacement of poor people the government should talk to them in a cohesive manner and provide appropriate rehabilitation.

However, where the water bodies are encroached by the rich and powerful such as estate developments and private builders they should be heavily fined and directed to restore the water bodies with their own funds. Odisha is already a water stressed state and we can no more neglect water bodies, WIO urges.

WIO has been urging upon the state government to formulate a Policy on Water Bodies. Time the government starts discussing with people and experts on this and builds a strong Policy to protect, preserve and rejuvenate all water bodies of the state. The state must ensure that not a single water body dies of encroachment, industrialization, pollution and urbanisation, WIO demands.

For further information, please contact:
Ranjan Panda
Convenor, Water Initiatives Odisha
Cell: +91-9437050103/9937561700

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Govt might hear landless marchers' plea to retrieve community resources

BS Reporter / New Delhi Oct 09, 2012, 00:18 IST

According to sources, the government is likely to agree to a centrally-sponsored survey of existing common property resources (CPR) in villages and develop a structure to govern and protect the CPRs.

 There is a proposal for setting up a gram panchayat-level committee for the protection of CPRs. A decision is likely to be taken this week.The government might agree to survey all available common village land in the country thanks to a non-violent march being held by landless villagers from different states of the country culminates in Delhi at the end of this month.

About 50,000 villagers demanding land for housing and farming have been walking from Gwalior to Delhi. While the procession, led by P V Rajagopal, will reach Delhi on October 28, its delegations are scheduled to meet central ministers on October 10 and 11 to thrash out solutions to some key demands.

The villagers demand land be made a fundamental right for farmers. They have been meeting state and central revenue ministers to press for a new law that will provide farm land to the landless and residential land for the homeless. They also demand a land reforms policy be made within the next six months.

One of their demands is to seek changes in the Indira Awas Yojana, to enable giving cash to the homeless for building a house and buying a small plot of land, either with the house or separately.

They also seek fast-track land tribunals for speedy disposal of cases pending in revenue and judicial courts. The cost of establishing and maintenance of the tribunals is to be supported under a centrally-sponsored scheme.

Some of the demands are likely to be accepted on October 11, when a delegation of the yatris meet central ministers including Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh in Delhi.

There is also a demand for a re-survey of Bhoodan land to recover them from encroachers and for allotment to the poor.

Meanwhile, those backing the procession have expressed disappointment at the slow response of the government to the demands made by the activists.

S N Subba Rao, a director of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, recently wrote to the Prime Minister saying that he was disappointed by the lack of response to the demands of a peaceful protest.

“The Prime Minister was expected to respond to the non-violent demands of the protesters. But nothing has happened so far. Not only Gandhians, even activists from other countries had come to see the non-violent miracle happen in India as a culmination of the procession from Gwalior to Delhi. But what an anti climax!

What happened to all the promises you had made? Not even a small piece of land for the poor to pitch their huts?’’ he asked.

Jairam Ramesh said that he would be meeting the activists delegation on October 10 and 11. He said his ministry was looking for a way to recover encroached Bhoodan land, and this was one of the demands of the activists.