The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Land plan raises stink

Jamshedpur, Nov. 13: The UPA government’s ambitious scheme to distribute land to the landless has run into an unexpected opposition.

The government is set to mark the state’s sixth Foundation Day on November 15 having announced that every landless family below poverty line will be given an acre of land for cultivation and 12.5 decimals to build houses. Community leaders in Singhbhum, however, have threatened to resist the plan.

While the districts have been asked to finalise lists of 300 beneficiaries each before Wednesday, the community leaders accuse the government of playing “vote bank politics” with the mid-term elections in mind.

They have contested the claim of state land revenue minister Dulal Bhuiyan, who told The Telegraph that the state had “plenty of land for distribution”.

The community leaders said while the government had so far failed to rehabilitate people displaced by the Uranium Corporation projects, the Subernarekha Multipurpose Project and so on, it was difficult to understand from where it would get the land for distribution among landless families belonging to the SC, ST and other backward classes.

The announcement would have been welcome only if the Madhu Koda-led government had a proper mechanism to identify the beneficiaries and a delivery mechanism, said Jagmohan Soy, a member of the Jharkhand Legal Service Authority. He felt that the government is compromising tribal interests without doing enough homework.

The UPA government is less that two months old, he pointed out, adding that such an ambitious plan cannot be finalised in so short a time.

The land revenue department may possess records of government land based on surveys conducted in 1934 and 1964 he asserted, but it “certainly does not have any records of the landless”.

Soy demanded that the drive be postponed till the government prepared a proper data bank on the land available and the landless. He also suggested that the gram sabha be given the right to identify the land and the beneficiaries.

“It appears to be more of an exercise designed to consolidate the UPA’s vote bank than a genuine desire to benefit the downtrodden,” he said, adding: “otherwise, the government would not have embarked on such a scheme soon after coming to power.”

Both Soy and Chandrabhushan Devgam, a member from West Singhbhum, apprehended manipulations and malpractice in land distribution and reminded the government of the Bhoodan movement of Vinoba Bhave. The “beneficiaries” of the movement have remained landless, they pointed out.

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