Our forgotten land policies
By Kishor Kumar Kalita
Like in all the previous policies, little emphasis was given by the Assam government to implement the reiterated provisions of the said policy. In 1972, the government of Assam came with a set of new land policy to optimize the use of available land so that the State tiol income could be increased. Before adoption of this policy, the government of Assam undertook a survey on the basis of a submitted prelimiry report of the Land Settlement Implementation Advisory Committee to enumerate eligible landless agriculturalist (families). According to this survey, the number of landless agriculturist (families) was 6, 22,295 as on 30th September, 1969. The 1972 policy for the first time reaffirmed the government stand to make a transparent and easy procedure to covert the existing patta lands in rural areas falling outside the periphery of 2 miles of municipalities, town committees, and revenue towns. It was declared in the policy that a person could automatically convert his/her annual patta land to a periodic one by depositing appropriate premium as decided by the government.
Policy with Vague Assurances: The Assam government abysmally failed in the process of conversion of annual patta land to a periodic one and thus the policy of 1972 became obsolete. Considering the large number of petitions pending for settlement of land in the State and considering the need to regularize the long occupations of government land by granting settlement of land as admissible with the eligible landless persons, the government also issued a circular in1978 in partial modification of the Land Policy of 1972 to all Deputy commissioners and Sub Divisiol officers of the State. But all these instructions have proved to be ossified and the task of survey and settlement of land in general and regularization of old occupations of government land with eligible landless persons in particular could not be carried out effectively and satisfactorily. Therefore, the Assam government imitating its predecessor's inclitions adopted a new policy in 1989. This policy stipulated certain provisions like-allotment/settlement of land for ordiry cultivation in rural area; settlement of the tented land acquired under the Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act,1956; allotment/settlement of land for homestead purpose in rural areas; allotment of land for allied agricultural purposes in rural areas; allotment/settlement of land for special cultivation; restriction of transfer of agricultural land; conversion of annual lease into periodic etc.
Though 25 years have elapsed since the adoption of the last land policy 1989, no actual measures have been taken by the respective government to implement the declared policies. In contrast, in the post-liberal era, the government of Assam has adopted a number administrative industrial policies which are against the spirit of declared land policies and prejudicial to the agricultural community of the state. The KMSS has brought to light a number of such instances of the State machinery patronizing a group of industrial houses as well as land brokers to violate the provisions of government land Acts and policies by facilitating illegal measures to convert huge numbers of agricultural plots to industrial and estate buildings. The State government now seems to be preparing to withdraw the decadal land welfare measures, once designed for the wellbeing of innumerable landless people of the State. Proliferation of landless people as a result of massive conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural will eventually deepen the conflict situation in the State. If the government of Assam fails to formulate a systematic and realistic land policy to solve the enduring problem of the landless, then it would again add to social unrest in the State.