Land to landless: Use of DMF fund most welcome
A recent decision of the Government of Odisha to provide up to 10 decimal land to the homestead landless families through purchase of private land out of the district mineral foundation (DMF) fund for construction of house under different housing schemes is most welcome.
However, though the decision for purchase of private land was first taken in 2013, the progress on this front is highly disappointing because of lack of accountability of field level revenue officials in charge of implementation.
The delay in the process of land distribution has affected the deserving beneficiaries in getting their related rights and entitlements under different schemes and programmes of the Government such as housing and toilet because land is essential to get benefits of other schemes. Many deserving illiterate and poor families are routinely visiting Tehsil offices to get a piece of land but the delay continues.
Right to homestead land is a fundamental right of every citizen which is linked to Right to life and livelihood. The Government of Odisha is engaged in distribution of homestead land since 1974-75 , but even after 40 years, there are lakhs of families who are not yet settled with record of rights (ROR) over their piece of land. As a result, they continue to live in distress and sub human conditions.
During last 60 years of constitutional governance, the State Government has paid very minimal attention to solve the vital issue relating to life and livelihood of a vast section of people of marginalised communities of the State. As it is mandatory that without ROR over the homestead land, construction of house is not possible, besides access to related basic amenities such as toilet, drinking water, electricity, LPG connection, Aganwadi, and linking road, the land is a key factor.
In order to change the quality of life of the rural and urban poor households, it is highly essential to ensure housing along with other basic amenities for life. It has been observed that many of the rural SC and ST hamlets at the end part of the villages lack basic amenities only for land factor.
There are three major housing schemes being implemented in the State such as PMAY (Rural), PMAY (Urban) and BPGY for mining areas and construction workers out of DMF and Construction Workers Welfare Board funds. The Union Minister of Rural Development revealed that land to the landless has been one of the major reasons of delay in implementation of housing schemes and it is the responsibility of the State Government to ensure land for the poor.
The Central Government has been working on a mission mode to ensure housing for all by 2022. The cost of PMAY (G) has been raised to Rs1, 20,000 per unit with size of 25 sqmt of the house.
The Odisha Land Reforms Act 1960 under Sections 45 and 51 have provision of settlement of 70 per cent of surplus land in a village for SCs and STs and other landless poor. The landless agricultural labourers will get the priority in allocation. The Odisha Government Land Settlement Act 1962 is enacted with a prime objective of settlement of waste land in a planned manner uniformly throughout the State.
Under the provision of law, it is mentioned that the Government has to reserve land for the poor. The Government land means any waste land whether cultivable or not recorded as house site. But in spite of availability of land and provision of law, these laws relating to life of the poor have not been implemented during last 60 years of its existence.
In recent years, the settlement of Government land has been getting problematic and the Central Government has introduced a private land purchase scheme in 2013. Many States have successfully utilised the scheme by availing support of the Central Government but Odisha has failed to do so. However, though late, the State Government has made financial allocation of about Rs 7 crore for 12 districts in 2017 to purchase private land for distribution among the landless poor. Though this private land purchase scheme has been introduced since 2013 but no progress has been made so far which was revealed in last ADM conference held on November 17 last year.
The Principal Secretary of Revenue Department has expressed concern in his letter to the RDCs and the Collectors to expedite the matter with all seriousness, but the grassroots revenue administration with its inherent feudal and corrupt mindset has failed to live up to the expectations of many deserving families.
There has been also scarcity of dedicated staff to meet the purpose. As per the scheme,there will be a land purchase and distribution (LPD) committee with the Additional District Magistrate as its chairman and the District Revenue Officer as its member convener along with Sub Collectors, BDOs, Tehsildars, District Sub Register, Sub Registrars as members of the committee. It is further said that the focus and priority of this private land purchase and distribution scheme is on homesteadless families belonging to STs, SCs, PHDs, minority communities and women, etc.
The land allocation process has to identify the potential beneficiaries and finalise the list, identify land and purchase, and finally settle the land in favour of beneficiaries. It is ideal to go for cluster approach where 10 to 15 families can be settled with basic amenities such as linking road, electricity, drinking water, toilet etc. The land to be purchased must be suitable for habitation and with good communication facilities and must be nearer to the existing habitations of beneficiaries and the willingness of the beneficiaries must be considered.
The LPD committee should maintain utmost transparency in beneficiary selection with right spirit so that no one can be deprived of realisation of his rights. It is suggested that there must be Pallisabha/Grama Sabha for beneficiary selection in the presence of all members of the village.
The corruption by middle man in the process must be arrested with direct involvement of the revenue officials with the community in village. It is also required to provide hand holding support to the beneficiaries till its logical end.
The LPD committee should monitor the progress of the scheme at Tehsil and district level on monthly basis for its timely implementation but unfortunately, these orders remain in pen and paper only and there has been no attempt at Tehsil level to implement the decision.
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