New Delhi: The 11-member multi-ministerial task force set up to draft India’s first national land reforms policym in its first meeting on 17 October, has set itself an ambitious agenda.
Following an agreement with landless poor who had embarked on a march on foot to Delhi from Gwalior led by Ekta Parishad’s PV Rajagopal, the Government has committed to drafting a national land reforms policy in the next six months. The task force is the result of agreement.
Members of the task force Mihir Shah, member of the Planning Commission, and Vijayanand, additional secretary in the ministry of Rural Development, will work on a 90-day deadline to ready a draft of the ‘national land reforms policy and strategy’.
The task force, chaired by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, will also draft central legislations to provide statutory backing for right to agricultural land and right to homestead land. K Raju, member of the National Advisory Council (NAC), is responsible for preparing the two draft legislations by the end of 90 days.
A re-designed Indira Awas Yojana scheme (the centrally sponsored scheme for rural housing) to double the assistance and make it available for buying land too is on agenda and so is a centrally sponsored scheme on fast track land tribunals.
Top on the Task Force’s agenda, however, will be to send out strong advisories to state governments on the implementation of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the Forest Rights Act, enhanced land access among other issues within the next one month.
Responding to a question during an interaction with the press on whether the land reforms policy would also address the problem of corruption in land acquisitions Rajagopal, said, “It should address it. All kinds of corrupt money is coming into land. There was a time when people invested in gold, now everyone is investing in land because they know that the price of land is going to go up rapidly. This has become a huge attraction form them. This entire process needs to demolished. It is a huge game.”
On the different forms of corruption in land, he said: “Forcibly taking land is the most brutal form of corruption. The second is through benami transactions, where land is bought in another’s name. The third form is using banks to get the land of the poor transferred to the rich, in the name of auctioning the land. Give the farmer loan and when he is not able to repay it, force him to give it to you. There are various ways of taking land. Corruption has become a highly advanced science.”
The next meeting of the task force has been fixed for November 16.