The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Land panel balm for marchers

New Delhi, Oct. 29: The Centre has decided to set up a high-level panel chaired by the Prime Minister to formulate the national land reforms policy and supervise its implementation.

The move comes amid a rally by 20,000 tribals and landless labourers in Delhi demanding a comprehensive land policy.

The decision to constitute the National Land Reforms Council (NLRC) was taken at a meeting between Manmohan Singh and rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today.

The government will also set up another panel — the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms — which would carry out field surveys, collate the data and make recommendations to the NLRC. The rural development minister will head the committee.

“The committee will be constituted in a month’s time,” the minister said, adding that the NLRC would take into account its recommendations while formulating the land reforms policy.

Raghuvansh Prasad said the committee would look into all land-related issues, including reforms, and make specific recommendations on policies, disposal of cases on time and computerisation of records.

The minister said land being a subject on the Constitution’s state list, the Centre would consider the committee’s recommendations for appropriate action and advice to governments.

The land protesters have been camping on the Ram Lila grounds, in the heart of the capital, for the last two days after a 350km trek from Gwalior. The rally will continue till tomorrow.

Activists called it the biggest display of satyagraha in recent times.

“Most land struggles of this scale have been controlled by Naxalites. This is the first time such a massive movement demanding land rights has been staged using Gandhian values,” said Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy.

“It is important that the government seizes this opportunity now. If they continue to neglect the demands of these people, they will turn to violence,” she warned.

Roy and five other social activists met Raghuvansh Prasad after his meeting with the Prime Minister.

P.V. Rajgopal of Ekta Parishad, one of the organisers of the rally, said “it has been decided, in theory at least, that all our demands will be taken into consideration”.

“There is a time frame to facilitate this. In one month, the committee will be appointed and, in three months, the policy will be formulated,” Rajgopal added.

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