A one day intense dialogue was undertaken with the participation of local NGOs, intellectuals and ex-politicians at Gandhi Seva Gram SL Puram, Allapuzha , Kerala, on the 6th of October.
This region neighbors the Tsunami struck areas such as Karunagalpally. The dialogue began with Shri PV Rajagopal explaining the genesis and need of a comprehensive land reforms policy, in a situation where globalization and corporatization is taking over the livelihood of rural communities. The entire concept of land reforms needs to be understood in the context of poverty alleviation, bridging the socio-economic inequality gap, seeing land reforms as an important element for social change and understanding that land redistribution will increase the productivity and production.
Though lot has been talked upon land reforms in India nothing concrete has happened at the grassroot level. With liberalization, land reforms have been gradually removed from the National Agenda. The government says that land reforms will not increase productivity. However Gandhians and the modernizing agriculture thought believe smaller units can achieve high productivity because the poor land owner will work more intensively, because his entire livelihood depends on it.
There is a need to initiate a larger and wider dialogue on land reforms and focus to protect the land the tribals have.
Substantial work has been done in states like Kerala. However, the impact has been low because there is a 20 year gap between the formulation and the implementation of the land plans. Land questions such as plantation question and workers in the plantation need to be revisited.
A land reforms agenda should also consider regional disparities, for example the differences in places like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and states like Kerala and Jammu Kashmir. Due to vested interest, politicians do not entertain the land reforms agenda. Dalit and Adivasi identity and livelihood issues need to be looked into in a comprehensive manner, rather than making it a part of a complete package.
Kerala government came with a policy of land distribution to the tribals. Sadly this remained limited to 2-3 acres of lease, and the middle men in large number of cases have been able to grab 15-20 acres of land. Adivasi and Dalits are not given surplus land whereas land for estates, rubber, supari, coffee have no ceiling limit. Large pieces of land still remain with corporate houses. A large number of tea estates in Idukki have been closed for years but have not been redistributed.
The government claims to have redistributed 52,000 hectares of land, but actual figures are of 38, 336 hectares. Only 12,392 hectares of land were distributed to tribals after 1957 (Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1957).