Oct 24, 2010

Flood of opportunities

The government and various development agencies are talking about the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of the flood affectees. Interestingly, the debate has centred on building homes for the shelterless people besides rebuilding the infrastructure -- schools, hospitals, bridges and roads -- but there is little focus on issues such as these people's entitlement to land.

A study shows that almost all the poor flood victims are landless. Even those lucky few who have their own houses do not possess entitlement of the land. They are settled either on the state or the private land; in both cases, without any documented ownership title, and are all under an ever present threat of eviction.

A sincere rehabilitation/resettlement moot shall have to accompany a piece of land for cultivation and shelter. Rural families can survive on a minimum of 5 acres of land, leave alone 12 acres or 25 acres as mentioned in the government policy books. So, if the state is willing, it must reconsider the proposal by providing each family a piece of land on ownership basis.

There are large pieces of state land lying vacant or forcibly occupied by the influential. The latter can be immediately recovered and redistributed as part of the resettlement package.

A better way would be to start with the katcha land. This year's floods have brought to light the fact that individuals have occupied as much as 5,000 acres of katcha land and they annexed the state land into their own. It is high time the government restored the state writ and recovered this land from the clutches of the big landlords and then redistribute it among the flood affectees.

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