The Council for Social Development and The Rural Development Institute, New Delhi organised a national seminar on Land Policies for Accelerated and Balanced Rural Development on November 9-10, 2010. The participants deliberated on various concerns related to the status of land reforms as well as land rights legislation in the country, including the liberalisation of tenancy laws, the need to identify newer approaches to reforms, safeguarding tribals’ and women’s right to land through instruments like the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas and Forest Rights Act.
Experts comprising senior government officials, political leaders, academicians, representatives of farmers organisations and media, highlighted the need to address the issue of 17 million landless rural families in an urgent manner. It was suggested that the government undertake aspecial drive to allocate at least 10 to 15 cents of homestead plot to all the landless families.
One way of improving rural population’s access to land was through legalising farm land tenancy. Participants recommended that leasing in and leasing out of agricultural land be legalised within the ceiling limits of each state, for a period of 3 years at a given time.
The participants also sought to address landlessness as a result of project related land acquisition and displacement, especially in the tribal areas. It was felt that the government should sincerely implement the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas and Forest Rights Act so as to ensure effective ownership and utilisation of forest resources by the tribals and other forest dwellers. Support from various civil society groups and Panchayati Raj institutions may be sought for conducting a comprehensive survey, settlement and updation of land records in both tribal as well as non-tribal areas.