Govt contemplates homestead land rights to poor

Programme likely to come into effect before 2014 elections

The UPA government is working on a proposal to give rights over homestead lands to weaker sections of the society, Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). 

The Planning Commission is reported to have agreed to make the proposal a part of its ongoing poverty eradication programme. The program, which is considered to have huge electoral potential, could come into existence before 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It may be linked with the Indira Awas Yojna, a Central government scheme for rural poor. 

Progress of the proposal is being directly monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). On the direction of the Prime Minister, the Planning Commission on Tuesday called a meeting of civil society leaders led by Gandhian P V Rajgopal and S V Manjunath to deliberate on the issue. The meeting chaired by plan panel’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia was attended by members B K Chaturvedi, Narendra Jadav, Arun Maira and Abhijit Sen.

Civil society leaders said the meeting acknowledged role of land reforms in poverty eradication and discussed  mechanism for making it part of the poverty alleviation scheme. They revealed that there was a “near agreement” on the urgency and possibility of making homestead a right on the lines of right to education, right to work, etc.

The initial legworks in this regard has been done by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh with the aim of  providing panchayats a greater role in poverty eradication mechanism with land reforms as a tool. Ramesh held several meetings with civil society leaders to work out the strategy in this regard.

However, the Planning Commission felt that different state governments should initiate a serious steps in this regard. “There was a consensus that ultimately poverty eradication should be agenda of Panchayat and hence decentralisation of power was key to achieve this task,” said civil society leaders.

 A group of Gandhian led by Rajgopal has been on a year long Jan Satyagrah Yatra covering different parts of the country. In the last leg of the Yatra, around one lakh people will march from Gwalior to Delhi on October 2. The activists have been demanding that land be considered as a major source of livelihood to eradicate poverty and accordingly backwards, adivasis and Dalits should be given rights over it. In 2007, too, they had marched to Delhi and the government constituted a National Land Reforms Council under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister to address the issue of land reforms.

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