National Conference on Land Reform and Community Resources in India

Wednesday, 31st October 2018

Two days National Conference on Land Reforms and Community Resources in India organised during 30-31 October 2018 by various organisations under Land Forum India. The participants debated the issues around land reforms and their failures. The speakers highlighted the need of sensitivity from the government and political parties to focus on the land reform.

The conference brought voices from forest dwelling communities who were the victim of the High Court order which termed them as encroachers and asked the state to dislocate them. The issues of caste, gender and its relationship with land was also being discussed in detail.  Two senior officials spoke about their work and how the activist can make use of the law.

Shri Chandra Singh, retired IAS from Uttarakhand spoke about constitution and why every one should have the understanding of it to fight against injustice. Mr. B D Naqvi, former Judge who spoke of his thirty years experiences, exposed the reality that justice has been never be on the side of the poor people. The discussions were provoking and truly represented by the Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, minorities and women.

An Activist guide book on Land Reforms prepared by Sunila Singh and Vidya Bhushan Rawat was launched in the conference. Sunila Singh, Anu Verma, Dinesh Desai, Raju Mahar, Daulat Ram, Ram Bhuvan, Jyothi Raj, Shri Chandra Singh, Mr B D Naqvi, Bhaskar Sur, Ashok Agynai, Mr Manas Jena, Glandson Dundung and others spoke on the session. The discussions were lingering around issue of common property resources and the draft bill designed by Maldhari Rural Action Group. 

While discussing about community resources, the conference focused on the state of pastorals.

Representative from Jharkhand, India shared on behalf of three states of eastern part of India; he shared that preliminary ground work has occurred with the pastoral community, especially the youths, to form an alliance. They all are very excited. However, he shared that there are a lot of concerns that the community is facing, such as disinterest of youths in sustaining traditions livelihoods, there is dearth of market for the pastorals. However, it was reiterated that the alliance could help pastorals to unite and address their issues collectively.

Gujarat representative shared that rangeland is being acquired and encroached for rail corridors, energy plants, industries, etc. MARAG is engaged intensively to mobilise the pastorals and other dependent communities over commons to take appropriate actions to save the commons. For this, a rally was organized in 13 districts of the state, state pastoral parliament was organized, three studies were undertaken to understand the current trends of the migration. A leap is taken on developing National Policy on Commons. 

Uttarakhand- There are difficulties faced by people of Uttarakhand due to FRA. Many activities are restricted and sometimes people have to bear the brunt because of FRA, instead of benefitting from it. SDF is planning to organise community wise Pastoral Parliament to address the issues of commons and land. In Uttarkhand, addressing the issues of pastoralist and mobilising large number of people is very challenging because of geographical distances and altitudes of settlements. There is a need to move from developmental approach towards the rights-based approach.

Rajasthan- Earlier pastoralists had good relations with resident communities but now the equation has changed. Residents find pastoralists a threat to the forests and its resources. In a recent development Rajasthan government requested Madhya Pradesh government to provide access and support to the pastoralists migrating from Rajasthan. To facilitate these processes migration cards are also being issued by the authorities.

After the issues and challenges were shared by the state representatives, that due to the increasing challenges and threat to the pastorals, a national policy on commons is being drafted by MARAG with Land Forum India. The need and discussion on policy began decades ago, but concrete plan was made since 2015. The discussion began at local level and then series of 6 consultations were organised with grassroots people/community, who are dependent on commons. In 2017, a zero draft policy developed and then there have been series of drafts of policy. The one presented is the most recent one, that has come out of these consultation.

The vision of the draft policy are The National Commons Policy properly define commons in the country and protect, conserve and improve commons including common lands, water and pasture keeping different needs of the dependent community and ecological function of commons in mind. It ensures to effectively use, manage commons, so that it contributes to the rural economy and hence contribute to the National GDP, ensuring sustenance of CPRs and hence, ecological balance.

The participants gave crucial and useful feedback.

The efforts are and will be made in order to advocate the national political parties to have the above issues of land reform and commons in their manifestos for the 2019 elections.


*News and Pictures of NES India