New Delhi, June 26: A ban has been proposed on the setting up of special economic zones (SEZ) on land in tribal areas and agricultural land.
A meeting today between rural development minister Jairam Ramesh and unofficial members of the National Council of Land Reforms (NCLR) also suggested that homeless rural people should be given homestead land.
These issues will be on the agenda at a full meeting of the NCLR headed by the Prime Minister. The council members include five cabinet ministers, chief ministers of 10 states, including Bengal, and a few unofficial members who are experts on land reforms.
The council, set up in January 2008, has never met in four years. It is supposed to lay down guidelines on land reforms based on the recommendations of the committee on state agrarian relations and unfinished task of land reforms, headed by Ramesh
The committee has studied inequality in availability of land and its impact on the economic condition of people. It submitted its report in September 2009.
The NCLR and the committee were set up after the Ekata Parishad, an organisation working for land reforms, organised a march by landless people in January 2008.
P.V. Rajagopal, the parishad president and an NCLR member, claimed the Centre was not giving desired importance to land reforms.
“The unofficial members of the NCLR had a meeting with the rural development minister today. But it is unclear when the full NCLR meeting will be held. The government is dragging its feet on the issue of land reforms because corporate houses are demanding land,” he claimed.
The meeting finalised a few issues for discussion at the full council meeting, including a proposal to ban SEZs in scheduled areas and areas predominantly inhabited by tribal people, and restriction on transfer of common property and agricultural land in other areas for such zones.
Massive transfers of agricultural and forest land for industrial, mining or infrastructure projects have led to rural unrest and distress migration.
According to the report of the committee on state agrarian relations, about 7,50,000 acres have been transferred for mining and 2,50,000 acres for industrial purposes in the last two decades.
SEZs have mostly focused on prime agricultural land, causing misery to poor peasants, the report said. Large chunks of land have been degraded because of industrial waste and effluents. Unplanned urbanisation has frequently resulted in illegal grabbing of significant chunks of agricultural and common land.
“We have discussed the major issues on land reforms. I have asked the unofficial members to give their feedback by Sunday. Once I get their comments, they would be submitted to the Prime Minister for further discussion in the NCLR meeting,” Ramesh said.