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Land Reforms and Locals

Land Reforms and Locals

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  27 Feb 2018 12:00 AM GMT

There is no gainsaying that land reforms hold the key to a farmer’s subsistence and sustence. Land reforms formed part of governmental deliberation at the highest political level in 1949 that led to the constitution of an Agrarian Reforms Committee under the chairmanship of JC Kumarappa to examine the all-important question of land reforms in the country. The recommendations of the committee’s report, submitted that year itself, included elimition of the scope of exploitation of poor cultivators by rich landlords, inculcation in the minds of farmers a sense of self-assertion, abolition of all intermediaries between the state and cultivators, prohibition of subletting of lands and transfer of agricultural lands to non-agriculturists, and establishment of an administrative machinery with dedicated officers for proper implementation of land reforms measures. The committee also said that a ceiling should be put in place as to the agricultural holding a farmer should own and cultivate, the reason being that the supply of land to landless cultivators was scarce and so such ceiling was imperative. The committee, which was doubtless a step in the right direction in a predomintly agricultural country, had social justice as its larger goal apart from focus on agricultural production.

It is in this backdrop that the two-day tiol semir on the “Need of Land Law Reforms in Assam in View of the Rights of the Indigenous People” organized by Tezpur Law College, which concluded last Saturday in Tezpur, assumes significance. A total of 38 papers were submitted during the deliberation, harping on various aspects of land reforms in the country with special focus on Assam, an eminently agrarian State with nothing much to talk about as far as industrialization is concerned. Dr Madan Sarma, former VC of Tezpur University, was right when he said land reforms in Assam are the need of the hour to render protection to the rights of its indigenous people – their rights being threatened, among other factors (the most perilous being illegal influx from Bangladesh), by an outdated colonial land policy. He said that during the British period a huge chunk of land was given to tea gardens and that the rights of the indigenous people had been suffering because initiatives for land reforms had not been taken since Independence, while also driving home that there was need for legal altertives – that is, such altertives must be sorted out. But what the Advocate General of Aruchal Pradesh, Nilayanda Dutta, said merits immediate attention and necessary spadework. Saying land law is a must for any administration, be it pre-British or post-British, he called for serious rethinking as to what land laws could be required in Assam to face its crisis as land laws are being altered from time to time. Couple this up with what Dr Sarma said – that proper land reforms are a must to come to the rescue of the sons of soil – and you reach the inference that only the right kind of land reforms will eble the indigenous people to survive with honour. What these reforms could be, it is for the government to moot in consultation with experts in the field. But its imperative is there for all to see. After all, it is a matter of indigenous cause confronted with the politically pampered causes of illegal settlers in hordes from Bangladesh – with their temerity to encroach upon xatra lands too – as well as with the State government’s zest to invite investors to set up their shops here by providing them with the land they need for their new ventures in a new land.

Bridging the Gap

Urbanites, by virtue of their higher educatiol level, awareness, accessibility and empowerment, are turally closer to the administration than their helpless and hapless rural counterparts are. This is glaring across the country despite the democracy in place with its attendant stress on equal opportunities for all. People in rural areas shy away from approaching the administration – be it their political and bureaucratic masters, or the police – for various reasons, chief among which being their impression, borne of valid reasons, that their woes will remain uddressed because they do not matter as they are a poor and backward people not as capable of asserting their positions as the luckier urbanites are. It is in this context that a ja jagriti sabha organized in a remote village – Daobhangi in Assam’s Dhubri district – last week assumes reckoning. The meeting entailed government officials, including from the police, interacting with villagers on the need for the latter to approach any official with their problems while treating such officials as their “friends”. A top official went to the extent of an outreach as to say, “From education to health or any other thing, no matter how big is your problem, simply approach us and share it. We’re here to listen to your problems that are afflicting you most. We’ll make all-out efforts to get them solved.” This is refreshing. The larger question, nevertheless, is whether the villagers would be convinced, given their past experiences of them being not heard at all rather than being heard patiently and given some meaningful succour. Even as this question remains, what is required for democracy to happen meaningfully to the lives of ordiry citizens is that they must summon the courage and will to approach the government – an elected government – whenever they are in the midst of crying needs that a responsible government must have the will to respond to and resolve. This is democracy.

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