Land Reforms as political agenda for 2019

women farmers

Land Reforms are a forgotten subjects for the political parties and the policy makers. It is ironical that the ‘biggest’ democracy of the world does not give the issue of land reforms a priority. Even the political parties have paid merely lip services. The social movements that we have seen during the past few years were actually against the transnational corporations land grabbing but remained silent on the grabbing by the caste elite in rural areas which grew on the encroachment of the land belonging to the marginalised sections of society especially the Dalits and Adivasis.

Land Reform remain quintessential towards democratisation of society. Worldover, it is attributed that land reforms are the best guarantee towards alleviation of poverty. In fact, the farmers organisations and those working against hunger and poverty as well as the UN are advocating the issue of family farming as a measure for growth of organic food and eradication of poverty and counter to growing corporatisation of the agriculture.

India saw an obscene growth of Income of an individual to the extent of over Rs 300 crore per day. The same family owns various Indian banks over Rs 40,000 crores as debt. By December end of 2017, most of the NPAs in India was over Rs 8,40,958 crore rupees as per a report published in the Times of India.

As per reports, India have over 14 crore landless families who are engaged in sharecropping process without any guarantee or social security. They are not even called farmers. 22.5% farmers in India are below the poverty line. Over 26.3 crore families are depended on farming in India as per 2011 census as quoted by various papers.

The problem is why has land reform not become a major political agenda ? Why even the parties claiming for social justice have not been able to raise this issue when we all want to eliminate poverty. Poverty in India is caste based. Frankly speaking, who are the landless people. Let us give the government figures. More than 79% of the Adivasi household are considered to be ‘deprived’ as per the economic Census 2011 which is 73% of the Dalits. The landlessness among the Dalits and Adivasis is very high. If we see the hunger deaths in India and look at their land status, we will find that a majority of those dying of hunger are a direct result of their landlessness. Again, who are the people dying of hunger ? They are the most marginalised Dalits or Adivasis. Is caste based discrimination not responsible for failed land reforms ? If that is the case then to abolish the caste system we must demolish and dismantle the sources of land accumulations in our rural hinterland. This will pave the way for social democracy which Baba Saheb Ambedkar wanted for the success of our political democracy.

Over the year, we only indicate the failure of Public Distribution System and other entitlement based scheme responsible for the hunger deaths but having known and work closely with many of these absolutely landless communities, I can vouch that it is a complete failure of the movements which do not highlight the issue of the landlessness as a major region for the hunger deaths as well as violence on the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

While the governments have failed in honoring the promises made in our constituent assembly, the growing accumulation of land by the powerful cronies who are looting the nation, is a matter of grave concern. When there is a Below the Poverty Line, there should be an ‘Ameeri Rekha’ as actually demanded by former prime minister V P Singh long back. How will we eradicate poverty if we have no control over how much land one can own, how much money one can make and so on. The growing inequalities are not a result of merely poor not working or are lazy and some rich people, highly hard working or great managers. All the big money is a result of the loot of the poor people. If we do not think of a ceiling on high earning and land, we will fail. It is in this regard, we would demand that land ceiling laws must be implemented and no organisations or companies can be allowed to capture public land as per its whims and fancies. It is an open loot. You can not give these companies a licence to loot our natural resources apart from looting our public money from the banks.

For making space for the poor and democratisation of society, all the religious institutions must be taxed and the vast land occupied by them should be leased out to the poor. All the big gaushalas must also fall under the land ceiling act. That apart, government must form a commission and give it a time bound responsibility to find out as what happened to the Bhudan land and whether it really went to the rural poor. All the Bhudan land must be distributed to the Dalits and Adivasis. Government must place a moratorium on land grab in the name of ‘development’. In fact, the term ‘public good’ must be clarified. Can land given to Ambanis and Adanis be ‘described’ as ‘Public Good’ but these days land given for corporate hospitals which look more as five star hotels and where even the middle class families would not be able to enter for their treatment despite their ‘insurance’, are being termed as ‘public good’.

India has not developed a mechanism for fair implementation of things. Our bureaucracy and judiciary survives on papers. If you are alive on papers that means you are alive otherwise you are dead. So, government’s land redistribution data must be verified at the ground level. We have seen huge number of people particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and other regions having the land entitlements but without possession of their land. It is important for the authorities to find out why have people not got land entitlement.

Land is the basic as well as the biggest source of Savarna power which make them dominant and manipulate with the democratic rights of the rural poor particularly belonging to the Dalit-Adivasi communities. A huge number of the OBCs who we call MBCs as per the Mandal Commission Reports too are landless but the Mandalite forces have rarely spoken regarding that. It is disgraceful because the top leadership protect their own interests and feel that any talk of land reform would go against their community interests. It is the same people who talk of Bahujan unity. How can there be Bahujan unity without talk of distribution of land and equal sharing of power particularly at our villages. Are the big farmers and farming communities ready to embrace the landless who are predominantly Dalits ?

It is time for the political parties and policy makers to think about these issues. I know this is not a ‘lucrative’ subject and many feel that these are the issues raised by the ‘lal jholawallas’ of JNU which itself is wrong because it is failure of not only ‘red’ but the ‘blue’ forces too. How can we expect the brahmanical capitalist parties to raise these issues which would democratise the society and help end the feudal caste order? It is not merely the parties, many of the movements too are working to maintain status quo as they know once the ‘poor’ who are mainly Dalits and Adivasis know their right, they will snatch it and break the nefarious caste order.

Caste system is not merely a social structure. It’s culture developed with complete disempowerment of the Dalits through their economic deprivation. The power in our villages flows through the might of the land. It is the landed people who manipulate our democracy, our social structure and define our culture. While there is growing assertion of the marginalised yet parties cant take them for granted for ever. They are also getting frustrated because their issues are rarely raised. It is time, we dedicate ourselves to land and agrarian reforms and democratise our society and break the bone of feudal caste system which only an equitable distribution of our resources could do.

Let us see how many of our political parties and political analysts put this on the national agenda for the 2019 elections.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at twitter @freetohumanity Email: [email protected]

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