The advent of British in India changed the notion of land ownership – the land now belonged to the state. The policies framed by the British also continued after independence and had an impact on framing of policies regarding land, functioning of administrative machinery and land related development programmes with State being central in all these issues. The State began to control land through legislation that recognised only individual ownership and declared all biodiversity and land without an individual title as State’s property with marginal variations in different regions.
Broadly, we see three phases and trends of policies and planning regarding use of land. First phase, during 1950 and 1980 focused on land reform agenda and land acquisition for construction of dams and other development projects. Land reform was viewed as a tool for equal distribution and poverty alleviation while land acquisition for dams was justified as ‘national development’ in the name of a public purpose. The second phase, 1981 to 2000 witnessed consolidation of power and politics of land. Procedural aspects of land governance – revision of tax, revenue, registration fee, stamp duty, land record, etc., changes in procedure for land transaction, land allocation for industrialisation along with infrastructure building and development took place. The third phase, 2001 onwards accelerated land acquisition on large-scale for massive development projects of the private sector and land given on lease for contract and corporate farming. Three acts – Forest Dweller’s Rights (Recognition) Act, 2007 (FRA), Special Economic Zone Act, 2005 (SEZ), and Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) 2013, and changes in administrative functioning in some state, such as ‘single window system’ for allocation of land to the industrial units have enunciated a debate of different kind among non-State actors on land as a resource while the State and the corporate sector view it as a commodity. The population displaced because of these policies such as small and marginal landholders (including those who benefited through land reforms and Tenancy Act, 1956), and non-owning land dependents (landless agriculture labourers, pastorals and dependents of pastoral activities) view these policies and actions of the state in a different way. They have articulated their needs, created a critique examining the changes that have taken place at micro and macro level due to change in legal and political decisions with regard to land allocation and use. These voices are reflected through protests and advocacy processes. They have insisted on people-centric planning and policies that promote just distribution of land, its utilisation for meaningful employment, livelihood, food security, and as a means to ensure social justice.
This paradigm shift has revealed many dimensions of politics of land rights. Land and its use as a resource have created challenges in the social, economic and the political spheres. This seminar focuses on ‘land rights’ to understand social transformation, as social transformation that signifies changes in structure and values. This implies fundamental and phenomenal change in social institutions and their functioning. It also alters relational frames and perspectives on the promotion of equality and justice. Land as a resource has evidently become a symbol of status, wealth and power, and social transformation strategies are now part of a road map to desired development. They are means to deal with agriculture and industrial transition and dealing with question of irreversibility in form of use and land ownership, and solutions to the problems.
Land being a subject on the concurrent list bears inherent complexities. Issues related to forest land and land belonging to the scheduled areas (SA) requires critical analysis on forest management and operational structures. Such land is largely inhabited by the scheduled tribes (tribals) with special constitutional provisions. Lack of coordination between different agencies and each having different level of authorities, most of the issue of these areas are either neglected or have become points of conflicts in different ways. Land alienation among tribals is rampant across the states in India. Second, the FRA epitomises under-performance of the law and conflicts and violation of tribals’ rights to forest land on an individual and community basis.
Approaches to social transformation ensuring land rights
The political institutions aim to improve the existing situation with a combination of planning, polity and political activities. The social actors focus on the Constitution as the law of the land to derive and articulate land rights to examine land related policies and laws; Five Year Plan as a blue print to development and analyse budget allocation, utilisation and its impact. In order to enunciate their needs and concerns as alternative development paradigms, they adopt various means and approaches, such as budget analysis, advocacy, lobbying, protest and promoting. Despite various actors using different means, approaches and institutions for social transformation, it remains an unfulfilled vision; leaving scope for further improvement and enhancement.
Initiating transformation through law sounds progressive and promising on one hand but at the implementation level, this process raises more questions and provides several reasons for dissent and protest. In this process, the politics of law making and implementation, and its linkages with the process of planning need to be examined. There is a need to look more closely at the effectiveness of the laws and functioning of these institutions.
In the process of social transformation, the role of different actors had kept altering. For instance, in parliamentary democracy the Parliament assumes the status of a supreme law making political institution. Many social actors have, therefore, chosen to become political leaders by winning elections. But they have realised their inability to make a dent on institutional democracy. They are neither able to ‘represent’ ethos and demands of their communities/regions, nor deal with the process of marginalisation despite being ‘elected representatives’. Parliamentary democracy has become a distant dream for the citizens because it has turned into a ‘party-cracy’. Influencing the ruling party to alter its pre-set agenda or to stop upholding capitalist ideology has been proven a mammoth task. The elected representatives of scheduled caste and scheduled tribes and some social activists are a case in point. Similarly, intellectuals and academicians involved in policy framing recognize the limitations of the planning processes vis-à-vis its implementation and the role of vested interests - be it in governance machinery or in politics.
The proposed seminar will focus on various land policies, land laws, planning –budgetary allocation and utilisation, development programmes and institutions created to facilitate land based development along with financial aids and allocation, land issues of different state and communities, which are embedded and run through the debates and discourses on land rights. It will attempt to understand different viewpoints on land ownership and rights, issues of land dependents, examining strategies that have worked, limitations of policies, planning and execution, need for revisit and its relevance in present times.
A limited number of participants will be invited for the seminar. Those intrested in participating should send a synopsis (700 words) of the proposed paper to following Email ID's :-
Academic Resourece Officer,
Indian Institute of Advanced Study,
Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla.
Dr. Varsha Ganguly,
Indian Institute of Advanced Study,
Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla
Indian Institute of Advanced Study
Phone (0177) 2832930, 2832195
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