Book Release ‘Landlessness and Social Justice’ in Patna
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Book on Land Disparities released
Release of Book titled ‘Landlessness and Social Justice’ based on a Participatory Land Mapping undertaken by landless labourers in Bihar with support from Praxis and Ekta Parishad
Patna, February 5, 2010
A book focusing on disparities in distribution of land in Bihar, titled ‘Landlessness and Social Justice’ was released in the state capital. The book is based on an unprecedented Participatory Land Mapping project undertaken by Praxis and Ekta Parishad in Bihar over a 15-month time-span, to capacitate landless labourers of selected revenue villages to stake an informed claim on their land entitlements. During the Land Mapping Exercise, local cadres of labourers in 38 revenue villages of five districts mapped land holdings in terms of ownership, control and various kinds of typologies. The exercise endeavours to present a viable model of a community-led, rights-based and result-oriented effort of prompting the State to act in favour of marginalized communities.
Anchoring the discussions, Pradeep Priyadarshi of Ekta Parishad emphasized upon the need of provisioning of land for meaningful empowerment of economically marginalized communities. He also spoke about the possibility of including agricultural labourers in validating data relating to land holdings, on the lines of involvement of landless communities in the land mapping exercise.
Presenting the key contents and outcomes of the land mapping exercise, Anindo Banerjee of Praxis spoke about the critical role of land ownership in influencing the development of socially and economically disadvantaged people. Citing macro-level statistics, he highlighted the fact that nearly 77% of all agricultural labourers in Bihar are completely landless, with about 91% of all Scheduled Caste households of the state owning less than an acre of land per household! Nearly 84.2% land holdings are marginal (i.e. less than a hectare in size) and only 9% holdings in the state cumulatively own as much as 45% of all cultivable land in the state.
Referring to key outcomes of the land mapping exercise, Mr. Banerjee mentioned that the average size of illegal encroachments done by socially powerful sections was nearly 4.5 times more than that of Scheduled Castes. Nawada district registered the highest proportion (91.8%) of marginal holdings. While average size of holding per land-owning family was found to be only 1.13 acres, the same for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was only 0.72 acres and 0.65 acres, respectively. Also, only 1.85% of all landowners in the locations of study were women.
Outlining necessary interventions, he emphasize upon the need for ensuring effective possession of land allotted in the names of the landless; the need for expediting the pace of administrative and legal procedures, particularly with regard to settlement of disputes and claims; for safeguarding the interests of sharecroppers; for prevention of land alienation caused by indebtedness due to exploitative terms of credit; for equitable consolidation of land; for prevention of illegal encroachments by socially dominant sections; for ensuring gender equity in policies and practices of land distribution; and for provision of homestead land in favour of the large number of homeless people in the state.
Shri Narendra Narayan Yadav, Honourable Minister, Revenue and Land Reforms, Govt. of Bihar, threw light on the policies and efforts of the state government for up-liftment of the Mahadalit sections. He also spoke about the preparedness of the state government towards provision of land for landless communities. He declared that the state government is planning to introduce a Land Disputes (Resolution) Bill, which would help in settlement of land-related disputes in a decentralized manner. Also, the government has recently initiated steps towards separation of the revenue cadre from the development and administrative cadre, to reduce work burden on functionaries. He also mentioned the initiatives of the state government for allocation of land in the names of women, and congratulated Praxis and Ekta Parishad for conducting the land mapping exercise and for producing a book on the same.
Speaking on the occasion, former CM Dr. Jagannath Mishra suggested that no society can develop meaningfully without addressing its inherent disparities. He attributed the growing scale of unrest in contemporary societies to the high levels of disparities in land distribution and emphasized upon the need for substantive land reforms for elimination of disparities. He lamented the misinformation campaign around the recommendations of the D. Bandyopadhyay Commission and demanded implementation of its practical aspects. He congratulated Praxis and Ekta Parishad for producing a fact-based document on land disparities and expressed hope that the state government would benefit from the analysis presented in the document.
Shri Shubhmurti, Chairperson of Bihar Bhoodan Yajna Committee, emphasized upon the need for involving Panchayati Raj institutions in processes of land administration and for digitization of land records. He mentioned the initiatives of the Bhoodan Yajna Committee in issuing land documents in the names of women and spoke about a number of systemic issues.
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