The Centre today agreed to frame a National Land Reforms Policy having statutory backing on the lines of MNREGA,bowing to demand of thousands of activists who were marching towards Delhi from Gwalior.
The march,which started on October 2,was called off after Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh signed an agreement with Jan Satyagrah leader P V Rajagopal for bringing in land reforms and addressing the issues of the landless poor.
“The agreement has the approval of the Prime Minister.
If we are unable to present the draft of the policy,then Rajagopal has every right to restart his agitation,” Ramesh said.
The government was “committed” to bringing the draft of the policy within the time frame,he said while addressing thousands of landless poor here.
“In the light of this agreement,Jan Satyagraha agrees to discontinue its present march and work with the Rural Development Ministry to carry forward this agenda. If nothing happens in six months,we will assemble here in Agra and march to Delhi,” Rajagopal said.
A task force will be set up under the Rural Development Minister to take the process forward and the first meeting will be held on October 17.
“While land reforms is clearly a state subject under the Constitution,the Rural Development Ministry acknowledges that a National Land Reforms Policy announced by the central government could have its own importance.
“The Ministry of Rural Development will initiate a dialogue with states immediately and put out a draft of this policy for public debate and discussion in the next four to six months and to be finalised soon thereafter,” the agreement said.
The agreement said MoRD will “proactively initiate” the dialogue process with states to take steps on the issue of giving statutory backing (like MNREGA and Forest Rights Act) to “(a) provision of agricultural land to the landless poor in the backward districts and (b) provision of Homestead Rights to the landless and shelter less poor of rural areas all over the country so as to guarantee 10 cents of homestead to every landless and shelter less rural poor household.”
Government also agreed to the demand for setting up Fast Track Land Tribunals for speedy disposal of the cases pending in revenue and judicial courts.
“Legal aid will be extended to all the persons belonging to socially deprived sections,whose lands are involved in litigation,particularly dalits and tribal communities,” the agreement read.
For gathering the views of the state governments,the Rural Development Ministry will issue detailed advisories in the next two months,exhorting them to focus on the effective implementation of various laws aimed at protecting the land rights of dalits and adivasis.
Thousands of adivasis and members of the marginalised community were present during the signing of the agreement.
As per the agreement,the draft of the national land reforms policy would be prepared in consultation with the Ekta Parishad of the Jana Satyagraha and other civil society organisations.
Among its salient points were: enhanced land access and land rights for the poor,marginalised and deprived landless,issuance of advisory to states for the setting up of joint teams of Forest and Revenue Departments for the resolution of forest and revenue boundary disputes,updating of records and governing property resources.
Rajagopal said 22 per cent people are landless in the country and this is not his organisation’s “final battle”.
“Politicians in this country are extremely stingy. So,the battle is about how much you can take from them,” the Gandhian activist and leader of the Ekta Parishad said.
“In the globalised world,governments always live in fear of industrial houses which exert pressure on it. We are trying to exert pressure from below. Through agitation like this,we can prevent the government from being completely sold out to the industrial houses,” Rajagopal told reporters.
This was for the first time that a law would be made to ensure that the landless got the land promised to them and a six-month time period assured to reach the goals,Ramesh said.
He,however,emphasised land was a state subject and it was only with their cooperation that reforms could be brought about.