New Delhi, Oct. 4: A draft central policy that seeks to provide agricultural and homestead land to landless and near-landless households has run up against a wall with all the states raising objections.
The National Land Reforms Policy, which could benefit up to 60 per cent of the country’s households, is not binding on the states, which are supposed to implement it.
All the state governments have opposed the draft policy prepared by the Union rural development ministry on the ground that it seeks to encroach on their domain, land being a state subject.
Many states have also criticised a provision seeking a revision of their land ceiling for individual households — a measure expected to free up the excess landholding for redistribution.
The central policy says every state should revise its ceiling if the existing limit is higher than 5-10 acres for irrigated land and 10-15 acres for non-irrigated land.
“All the states have opposed the policy. They do not want any central policy on a subject that is completely under the domain of state governments,” an official said.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said the negative feedback from the states should not be seen as an obituary for the policy.
“We are convening a meeting of the task force soon. We shall discuss the policy and the feedback and take a final decision,” he said. The policy had been sent to the states in July to seek their comments.
Nearly 30 per cent of the country’s 19.2 crore households do not possess agricultural land while another 30 per cent are near-landless, possessing less than an acre each. An estimated 80 lakh households — four per cent — do not have homestead land.
Under the policy, each state is to create a land bank by reclaiming wasteland, encroached-on Bhoodan land and ceiling-excess land.
The policy provides for at least 10 cents (4,400sqft) of homestead land for each homeless family and an unspecified area of farmland for landless families. The states are to decide whether the near-landless should be given any land after finding out how much land is available for redistribution.
Following the abolition of zamindari after Independence, various states enacted their own land ceiling laws but land experts say these have not been implemented properly.
Social activist Nikhil Dey, a member of the task force that prepared the draft policy, said the idea was that the states would draw up their own land laws using the central policy as a model.
National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena, however, questioned the policy’s relevance.
“The states have land ceiling laws but they are not implemented. For instance, (some) people possess thousands of acres. How can a central policy solve the problem?” he asked.
Saxena said the Centre needed to provide incentives and disincentives to the states to get them to implement their land ceiling laws and carry out other land reforms.
The official stats on landless and near-landless families, however, take into account not just rural households but also urban households, who make up 30 per cent of India’s population and among whom “landless” does not necessarily mean “poor”.
For now, the policy applies to both rural and urban households without an income cutoff. Nor have the modalities for redistribution been worked out. The exercise, if carried out, is likely to involve a degree of relocation of families.