1.1.1 The Government of India constituted in January, 2008, a National Council for Land Reforms comprising eminent people drawn from different walks of life and with the Prime Minister as the Chairman. Simultaneously, a Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms was also constituted. The Committee was divided into seven sub-groups and each focused on an important dimension of land reforms.
1.1.2 Each of the sub-groups made visits to several States. The National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) conducted a quick survey in 15 States, and one separately for all the States of the North East. This report is based on the Reports of the Committees, the State Reports, observations made during the field visits of the Committee, published material and the reports of Committees appointed earlier in some of the State. The report is organised in seven chapters each reflecting of the respective Sup-Groups. The executive summary presented here follows the same order in which the main report is produced.
2. Land Ceiling, Distribution of Ceiling Surplus, Government and Bhoodan Land
2.1 Land Ceiling
2.1.1 Land ceiling as a redistributive programme is of as much relevance today as it was fifty years ago. There are various estimates on the potential of availability of ceiling surplus land. The NSS Report on Household Ownership Holding (2003) finds that 80.40 per cent of the farming community comprising the small and marginal categories own 43.50 per cent of the land area, the medium and large farmers who constitute 3.5 per cent own 37.72 per cent of the total land. The States so far have declared 2.7 million hectares surplus out of which 2.3 million (87 per cent) hectares were taken possession of and 1.9 million hectares were distributed to 5.5 million households (37 per cent to the SCs and 16 per cent STs). There has been no further progress in the implementation of land ceiling legislations. The estimates of LBSNAA put the potential of ceiling surplus land at approximately 21 million hectares.
Of the remaining land, that was officially declared as ceiling surplus, much was pending in Revenue and High Courts. The Committee found that often the failure to acquire ceiling surplus land or benami holdings of land was due to underlocked interest structure developed amongst large land owners, the elite including the village elite and members of the bureaucracy. It also found a number of ceiling land beneficiaries not in possession and that significant portion of the area declared surplus is either not fit for cultivation or not available for distribution due to miscellaneous reasons.
A very significant finding of the Committee relates to inefficiency and lack of interest on part of the officialdom. It is observed that the inferior quality land were surrendered or taken over and even where the beneficiaries were in possession, they were given land on bunds and in such areas that they became more of a liability. There are instances of large variations in ceiling limits amongst the States, not taking into account the subsequent upgradation in the quality of land in newly irrigated areas, retention of large chunk by religious trusts and educational institutions. A point that emerges very clearly is that there is an urgent need to revisit the issue of lowerinbg the ceiling limit as considerable areas were not properly covered in the implementation. There is also the need to treat land ceiling on a continuing basis taking into consideration the irrigation, watershed and other improvements. It is observed that often bureaucratic behaviour excludes the Panchayat functionaries with the land reforms process. Normatively, the Committee suggests a new set of limits of 5-10 acres in the case of irrigated land and 10-15 acres for non-irrigated land, to be decided by the concerned State Governments.
The major recommendations relating to ceilings legislation and distribution of land are the following:
(i) There is an urgent need to re-visit the land ceiling limits in different categories to be implemented with retrospective effect. The State should be free to revise its ceiling limits provided that they do not exceed the ceiling already fixed even on regional and sub-regional basis.
(ii) Absentee landlords or non-resident landowners should have lower level of ceiling.
(iii) Introduction of Card Indexing System for preventing fictitious transfers in benami names. This card should be related to allottee’s Voted I/D Card or PAN.
(iv) Discontinuation of exemptions to religious, educational, charitable and industrial organisations. The religious institutions should be allowed one unit of 15 acres.
(v) Research organisations and Agricultural Universities should be allowed more than one unit on customized case to case basis.
(vi) Withdrawal of the general exemptions to plantations, fisheries and other special categories.
(vii) Imposition of criminal sanction on failure to furnish declaration on ceiling surplus land.
(viii) Filing of Review petitions against cases decided by fraud or misrepresentation.
(ix) Disposal of cases by Divisional Officers-cum-Tribunals and ensuring immediate surrender of excess land after judgment.
(x) Bar jurisdiction of the Civil Courts.
(xi) The Benami Transactions (Prohibition of the Right to Recover Property Act) of 1989 should be amended so that evasion of ceiling laws through fraudulent land transactions can be monitored.
(xii) Revision in definition of landless poor person to include one who owns no land.
(xiii) Not more than two acre of wet land and five acre of dry land should be allotted.
(xiv) Computer based tracking and monitoring of ceiling surplus land.
(xv) A group should be set up composed of Gram Sabha members and revenue functionaries to identify benami and farzi transactions.
(xvi) Redistribution of the land acquired but not being used for the purpose.
(xvii) Adoption of single window approach for redistribution of ceiling surplus.
2.2 Government Land
2.2.1 The Committee has relied upon the calculation of wasteland at 63.85 million hectares (20.17 per cent of the geographical area). The definition of the land includes — land with or without scrub, waterlogged and marshy land, land affected by salinity/alkalinity-coastal/inland, shifting cultivation area, degraded pastures/grazing land, degraded land under plantation crop, sands/inland coastal, mining/industrial wastelands. The programme for distribution of Government wastelands were followed vigorously in the post-Independence era particularly Andhra Pradesh which distributed 1.7 MH. Presently, the Committee has found a trend to auction these lands to highest bidders instead of distributing them to poor or using them for public purpose. . Tamil Nadu has leased 2 MH to private companies on a 30 years lease with a ceiling limit of 1000 ha. It has not even specified as to what kind of land will be leased out. In Andhra Pradesh, the Committee has noted, that ‘Lanka lands’ emerging out of alluvial action of rivers are mostly leased out for one year to Cooperative Societies which are often fake in character.
2.2.2 The Committee has also made note of the massive encroachments on the Government lands in Sundarban area of West Bengal, ever green forests of the Western Ghats in Karnataka and Aravali and Satpura regions of Madhya Pradesh. Besides, the Government has regularized encroachments in respect of 1.26 lakh ha. in Andaman, Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. The Committee finds that in Bihar the Government lands under the Khas Mahal Estate are grossly mismanaged and highly encroached with no proper record system. Even the Bihar Public Land Encroachment Act, 1956 was not sufficient to set this right. This has led to considerable loss to the Government as most of these lands were located in the urban areas.
2.2.3 A significant finding of the Committee is that the lands assigned to the poor were mostly uncultivable and where cultivable lands have been assigned they were not under their possession. These assigned lands were mostly alienated. This situation prevails right across the country except in the case of States like West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Another pertinent finding is in respect of the rights being vested under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. However, the State Governments are yet to take effective measures particularly in creating awareness about the programme. In States like Chattishgarh, where vast lands come under this category, the Committee found State Government needs to take initiative in order to to implement the Act. The Committee finds Jatropha plantations right across the country on waste land and common land and even in respect of such lands which have been claimed under the Forest Rights Act. In Rajasthan, Jatropha plantations have begun to hurt the pastoral communities by impinging upon the grazing lands, requiring that the policy structure needs a revisit.
(i) The list of beneficiaries in fresh assignment should be selected by the Gram Sabha with mutations to be carried out before the grant of the patta.
(ii) The definition of landless for the Government lands should be the same as that in the ceiling law i.e. person owning no land and maximum 1 acre wet and 2 acre of dry land should be assigned.
(iii) The term Wastelands needs a fresh look and redefined. Along with it, all the kinds of land which are categorized under it should also be identified and quantified in terms of the sustenance they provide to populations in non-cultivable manner. This task should be undertaken under the Wastelands Division of the Ministry of Rural Development.
(iv) Committee suggests that the Panchayat should be made in-charge of the well defined wasteland in the purview of a Panchayat.
(v) It is also interesting to note that the Committee suggests grading of population tied to the wasteland in terms of their literacy, exposure non-tribal and other professions.
2.3 Bhoodan Lands
2.3.1 Acharya Vinoba Bhave acted as a one man land army for a voluntary transfer of land based on the Gandhian principle of trusteeship and need. The Bhoodan Movement resulted in large areas of land donated for distribution among poor, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. However, the three types of problems faced with these lands. First, large tracts of land donated are not useful for cultivation and therefore not distributed. Second, much of land distributed to the poor is not in their possession. Third, there is still substantial land available but not distributed. The problem in Andhra Pradesh is similar to that of Bihar- there is no evidence to indicate that the assignees of the Bhoodan lands are in possession, or whether title has passed on to them or whether they derive sustenance from the land.
2.3.2 Resumption and settlement of land notwithstanding multiple transfers that might have taken place was a contentious issue even within the Committee. However, the consideration that weighed was that usurpation of land donated for Bhoodan cannot be condoned irrespective of the number of transfers that it might have undergone.
The Governments of such States having undistributed Bhoodan lands should get a survey conducted within one year ascertaining the status of the land which have been declared unfit for settlement including the 6 categories mentioned. The present physical status, history of the conveyance of titles, the incidence of irrigation, the present possession, the title of the donor etc must be recorded in detail.
The State Governments should apply all their resources including Amins and Surveyors from other Departments, Gazetted Officers and others to complete the survey work within one year.
This Survey should also include the land distributed for ascertaining their factum of possession and the extent of sustenance.
The Panchayats and the Civil Society Organisations should also be associated with the Survey.
A social audit should also be conducted in respect of Bhoodan lands along with this Survey.
The matter of handing over/restoration of possession should also be conducted in the same drive after summary proceedings.
It may be possible that the land in question might have undergone several transactions during the intervening period whereby several right holders have been created into the land. Any attempt to implement the original decision may lead to a title suit in the Civil Court. In order to overcome this situation the following provision should replace the existing Section 15(3) of the Bihar Bhoodan Yagna Act :
“ 15(3): If at any time subsequent to the confirmation of the Danapatra in course of any enquiry or otherwise it transpires that the land is not being used for the purpose for which it was donated the occupant thereof may be ejected by means of summary proceedings and the competent authority may proceed to settle that land with suitable persons of eligible categories notwithstanding the subsequent transactions in the land or the interest acquired by the land subsequent to the donation.
15(3)(1) : No summary ejection made under the provisions of Sections 15(3) above shall be called into question before any Court of law or shall be subject to any judicial proceeding.”
2.4.1 The Committee argues strongly for effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 through a composite series of measures. Further all ‘encroachment cases’ and ‘minor forest offences’ should be withdrawn in purview of regularization of claims for the same piece of land.
2.4.2 There should be a comprehensive survey within a certain time frame and should recognize customary rights over the forests and land resources.
2.4.3 The Primitive Tribe Groups should also be recognized in the land they occupy.
2.5 Land Rights for the Nomads
2.5.1 The nomadic tribes do not possess any landed assets. The Committee would like them to be settled on Government land and to ensure their land rights through ‘Minimum Land Holding Act’. All minor offences of these communities in their pursuit of land and livelihood should be withdrawn and land allotted.
Women Land Rights
2.6.1 The Committee takes note of the gender inequities in land relations and finds that States like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have amended the Hindu Succession Act 1956 to facilitate succession by women. The Hindu Succession (Amendment Act, 2005) gives equal right to daughters to succession and the Act should be implemented in all States.
2.6.2 The findings from the field include gross discrimination against women in rehabilitation and gender biases in R&R Bill should be rectified.
The Committee argues for mandatory joint entitlement & ownership rights through central incentives.
It also argues for deleting clause 45 (3) of the Land Acquisition Act and all females above the age of 18 should be recipient of the notice and unmarried daughters/sisters, physically challenged women, female orphans, widows and women divorcees should be treated as separate families in the R&R policy.
The Committee also strongly argues for vesting of homestead lands to the females.
The Committee recommended for women’s community rights & ownership over common property land in villages.
There is also a need to create a firm data base in respect of the land ownership of the women and the women headed households.
3.1 Tenancy, Sub-Tenancy and Homestead Right
3.1.1 The terms of the Committee included:
To examine the issues of tenancy, sub-tenancy and suggest measures for recording of all agricultural tenants and a framework to enable cultivators of land to lease in and lease out with suitable assurances for fair rent, security of tenure and right to resumption.
To examine the issues related to homestead rights and recommend measures for providing land for housing to the families without homestead land.
3.2 Issues Relating to Tenancy and Sub-Tenancy
3.2.1 The Committee has relied upon a study by Haq (2001) and Deininger et.al (2005) that restrictions on the lease market drive the tenancy underground while some land owners keep their land fallow. Releasing the lease market would be productivity enhancing, equity promoting and encouraging others to seek non-farm employment. This will equip them better to withstand consumption shops. The rental market is more flexible than sale markets and involves lower transaction costs. This will also increase the bargaining strength of the conventional tenants and will afford to them the protection of law. The Committee also finds developing lease market a win-win situation in Punjab and capitalized agricultural markets confined by the interactions in the field.
The Committee has also gone into the issue of recording of tenancy and notes that wherever such situation does not prevail, the records should be a simple lease document for 3-5 years duly verified by the head of the Gram Sabha.
The Committee argues for leasing for agriculture in all areas within ceiling limits andencouragement to the women to lease in. The Committee also wants to remove the clause of adverse possession in tenancy laws which act as an incentive to the landholder.
All States should impose ceiling on Operational Holding and not just ownership holding which will prevent concentration of land through lease in. Under no circumstances should a person be allowed to lease in more than the ceiling area.
The Committee has recommended suo-moto resumption of land on the expiry of the lease period and the fixation of fair rent by the State. The rent should operate as per the lease market.
The Committee would also like all tenants and sub-tenants including share croppers to be recognized by law and assisted by institution finance. Further, ownership rights should be conferred on the Bargadar in West Bengal who have been registered.
3.3 Homestead Rights
3.3.1 The Committee starts by recognizing that houseless ness is an incident of landlessness. The NSS data shows 10 per cent landlessness in the country and 5.5 per cent are houseless implying thereby 7.9 million persons without dwelling units. The Committee also refers to the 4 million households obtaining house sites across India. The area of the house sites varies. The landless in Orissa only gets 4 cents but even that leads to tangible benefits to the landless households. If the house sites were 10 cents it would permit supplementary household livelihood activities with poverty reducing. The Committee appreciates the recent initiatives in Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Karnataka proposes to give 12 cents under ‘My Land’ ‘My Garden Scheme’ acting on the basis of the list prepared by the Gram Panchayats. In West Bengal, it is implemented through the Department of Land Reforms. This scheme plants to spend Rs.20,000 crores in giving 0.16 to 0.5 acre per plot. In Andhra Pradesh under Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) implemented through the SHG Movement of Women the government provides 1 acre of land at Rs.58,000 per acre with the Government contributing 60 per cent and the beneficiary 10 per cent the rest being met by the Institutional finance. A recent appraisal finds net cash income of Rs.15000 per beneficiary.
The Committee recommends a centrally sponsored scheme to allocate 10 to 15 cents of land to the houseless rural poor through market purchase on 75:25 cash basis.
The allotment of land-cum-garden should be on the name of women.
Social homogeneity should be kept in account and the infrastructural facilities like roads, electricity, schools, safe drinking water, health centre, etc should be provided by the Government.
4.1 Governance Issues and Policies Relating to Land
4.1.1 The Committee notes with concern extensive land acquisition for various purposes and to the Supreme Court Orders in the case of Narmada Bachao Abhiyan. In Andhra Pradesh large areas of land are acquired for irrigation projects, housing projects, infrastructure, etc. The Committee also takes note of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007.
4.1.2 The Committee has also taken note of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill of 2007 which prescribes conditions for the project affected families to qualify for the benefits. The Bill presented before the Parliament and referred to a Select Committee. While appreciating the effort the Committee feels that there are some critical areas in the Bill that will be addressed during the course of re-examination.
4.1.3 The Committee has also examined a Special Economic Zone Act 2005 and finds that there is no cost-benefit analysis for such projects and further there is no upper limit for acquisition of land. The tribals and farmers’ concerns remained totally unattended.
The Committee recommends for revisiting SEZ Act comprehensively and putting a ban on exemptions on diversion of land in scheduled areas and also transfers of common property and agricultural land for SEZ/STZ purposes.
Land should be restored to the owners if it is not used for the purpose acquired.
Fertile land should not be acquired and public purpose to be redefined to include public utilities.
There should be compensation for all the persons living within the zone of displacement and should cover the entire community at the market rate.
There should be time bound rehabilitations and resettlement of communities earlier affected by development projects, mining projects, industrial projects and protected areas (National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries).
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
4.2.1 The new EIA notification (2006) puts in place a State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), the Committee finds that this notification excludes all buildings and construction projects having less than 20,000 sq.mtrs. of built up area like shopping malls and commercial complexes. Such project will have a separate clearance procedure by Expert Appraisal Committee (ESE) in respect of the second category (these two projects) even 450 MW power projects have been kept out of the ambits of EIA.
4.2.2 The Committee notes that the monitoring of compliance of the EIA clearance is self-regulatory with reports being submitted by every six months and that some of the EIAs are getting funded by the project proponents themselves which is likely to undermine the process of public consultation. This gives rise to a reasonable apprehension that the process of EIA instead of protecting environment may constribute to further encroachments.Hopefully the loopholes will get addressed.
Diversion of Forest Lands
4.3.1 What alarms the Committee most is that approximately 4.3 million forest lands has been diverted to non-forestry use (1952-1976). Till 1976 forests was in the State list and the State Governments were responsible for the management of forests. In 1976 the Government of India issued guidelines providing for mandatory consultation in respect of diversion of more than 10 hectares of land. It is indeed alarming to note that during this period up to 2008, 7.76 MH of land have been diverted out of the forest corpus. Total 55 per cent of this diversion has taken place after 2001. In Chattishgarh the diversion is for many purposes, but mining being one of the important ones. In Chattishgarh, 1.71 Lakh hectares were diverted (1980-2003) of which 67.22 per cent was for mining.
4.3.2 The Committee has noted the tremendous pressure being put on the forest land and that even a plethora of policies and institutional mechanism like Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, Compensatory Afforestation will not cure the environmental loss. Thus, it appears that the nation is heading for ecological crises of serious dimensions which need to be addressed expeditiously.
The Committee recommends that EIA should be carried out by independent agencies.
The GIS should carry out EIA of all projects approved by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The Committee calls for an immediate halt to the indiscriminate, large scale transfer of agriculture land to non-agriculture usages. All medium and large transfer should be subject to environmental protection clause. The Committee also calls for a total ban on conversion of forest land for industrial purposes.
There should be a Regulatory Authority at the District level to monitor land, forest and water issues and fast track courts for settling all grievances.
5.1 Tribal Land Alienation & PESA
5.1.1 Alienation of Tribal Lands including Land belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes And the Traditional Rights of the Forest Dependent Tribals.
This Committee was required to focus on the nine States in the Fifth Scheduled Areas. The Committee clearly finds that the land relations govern the production relations and at times also the vice versa. The external relations of the community particularly with the Government are dependent on the kind of land laws that they have and the quality of its implementation. The Committee begins by taking cognizance of the declining operational holding size and also ownership size which leads it to conclude that the corpus of tribal land is in serious danger of erosion.
The Committee also notes the erosion of the corpus of tribal lands due to the ‘Acquisition and Marketisation process, to which the State has also been a party. By a strange quirk of destiny the mineral wealth is mostly located in the habitat of the tribals. Since doing away with the Freight Rationalization Policies of the Government of India there is a locational advantage to be hired by setting up pithead industries particularly in the field of power plants involving bulk transportation of coal. The Committee finds the macro-economic policies of the Government contributed to erosion of corpus of tribal lands. Hopefully, such issues will get addressed within the paradigm of the Amendment to the Land Acquisition Act Bill 2008 , the Rehabilaitation and Resettlement Bill, and National Tribal Policy that are under consideration of the Government.
The Committee has noted that though the existing framework of law looks formidable on paper but it does not always operate to the advantage of the tribals. Though, sale of tribal lands is prohibited in all these States, transfers continue to take place, more perceptibly so in the post liberalization era for reasons that have been discussed by other earlier Committees. The BN Yugandhar Committee (2002-3) has referred to the process of enclavement whereby the tribal retreats into the interior areas on the incursion of the non –tribals leaving his home and hearth behind as a major factor of alienation. The constitutional authority vested with the Governors in the Fifth Schedule is not effectively used.
The Committee notes with dismay that the process of restoration of alienated land is worse than alienation. The NIRD studies conclude on the basis of examination of records that the tribals would have been better of by purchasing the land by open market rather than obtaining to the State led process of market that institutions like Courts, bureaucrats and mostly public men, are often formidably interlocked against the tribals. Even in Jharkhand, a State which has been carved out to protect the interests of the tribals, the process of alienation has hastened rather than slackening leading to further impoverishment of the tribals. In Jharkhand, the per capita income of tribals is less than half of the per capita income of the State and more than 45 per cent of the tribals live in poverty, 27 per cent under extreme poverty (IHD 2008). The Committee notes with concern that even judgments of the Supreme Court like the Samata Judgment are yet to be implemented by the State denying its applicability to the State.
The Colonial Nature of the Land Management system which persists needs to be drastically changed.
The letter and spirit of the ‘Samata Judgment’ be enforced in all acquisition of tribal land for private companies.
Consultation of the Gram Sabha should be held as ‘Prior Informed Consent’ as provided in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of forest Rights) Act 2006 and strictly enforced.
The Gram Sabha should also be involved in the Joint Survey and its assent to the correctness of the Joint Survey should be made mandatory.
Land for Land is made a fundamental requirement for acquisition of tribal lands. The land rendered fit for cultivation be handed over to the proposed prior to acquisition notification together with costs of cultivation for 3 years. The compensation must include opportunity cost, loss of access to forest, minor forest produce and other well-being costs which the community will bear in the place of relocation.
5.2 Empowerment of the Gram Sabha
5.2.1 The Committee takes note of the fact that the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 better known by acronym PESA is one of the most revolutionary legislation to have been passed by the Parliament. It reverses the wrong of centuries by providing the community through the Gram Sabha a command over all the natural resources including land, water, forests, minor forest produce, minor minerals and is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the tribal way of life. Unlike the non-Part IX areas it is the Gram Sabha and not the Panchayat which has been made the fountain source of power. Inter alia the Gram Sabha has the powers to identify the cases of alienation of tribal land and to order their restoration.
The Committee notes with dismay that the provisions of PESA have not been implemented in any of the 9 States. It is true that all the 9 States have made amendments in their Panchayati Raj Acts. On the flip side none of these States have made Rules for the implementation of PESA. The Committee strongly infers that a faithful implementation of PESA will reduce the extreme distress conditions prevailing in the tribal areas. The Committee also recognizes that the grossly adverse land relations that the landless and the poor have with the rural landowning classes and the inability of the State to intervene effectively on their side, has given rise to a ‘crises of trust’ vis-à-vis the State have a positive correlation not only to poverty but also to the rise of left radical movements.
The Gram Sabha should be recognized as the ‘Competent Authority’ for all matters pertaining to transfer of tribal land whether by sale or by lease restoration of alienated tribal lands, maintaining the land records. The Land Revenue Codes and other relevant laws should be suitably amended.
A Committee of educated youth elected by the Gram Sabha is trained in necessary functions of measurement, marking of boundaries by GPS technology, verification of entries and maintenance of records.
Entries to the ‘Record of Rights’ will be made by the Patwari or the Village Officer only on a specific resolution of the Gram Sabha. Records will be retained at the Office of the Gram Panchayat and made available on specified days.
5.3 Operationalisation of PESA
5.3.1 In view of the decisions the Committee has strongly argued for Operationalisation of PESA. It seriously questions the attitude of the State Government that a mere amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act of the State is tantamount to its operationalisation. It is not. There are four dimensions to the implementation of PESA, the first being amendment in the structure of the related loss to confirm with the provisions of the PESA. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India, had commissioned a Study by the Institute of Law, New Delhi which finds in some States there are as many as 29 Acts to be brought in conformity with PESA.
The second step involves the formulation of the procedural laws governing the conduct of business and establishing the command over natural resources. The third relates to providing manpower support and resources to the Gram Sabha. The Committee is of the opinion that since the Gram Sabha in PESA areas deals with an enormous range of subjects there should be a Gazetted Officer to act as the Secretary with adequate supporting staff selected amongst others for his commitment to the cause of the Gram Sabha. The fourth step involves providing training support to the Gram Sabha building up a mass movement of the CBOs, legal literacy groups and others.
A participatory survey and settlement process under the purview of the Gram Sabha to recognize and record tribal rights to land and land based resources.
Amendment of all laws at variance with the provisions of PESA undertaken in a fixed time frame with the necessary Rules, Regulations and procedures to make them implementable.
The State has to provide adequate infrastructural, manpower and other support for the Gram Sabha in order that it functions.
Building up of a mass movement for training and mobilization for faithful implementation of PESA.
5.4 Rights of the Scheduled Castes
5.4.1 The Committee finds that the corpus of land of SCs is very weak and much below their population based entitlement and whatever they have is in the process of getting eroded. The Committee is constrained to note that most of the SCs are still without any access to land rights and it needs to be rectified.
The Institution of Land Bank as conceptualized in Chapter V in respect of the SCs may be thought of. The Land Bank will operate the market route to acquisition of land as it has been in the case of the IPK in Andhra Pradesh, the lands being inalienable.
Since the SCs comprise the bulk of the landless labour population the IAY, the homestead sites and other programmes should operate on exclusive basis as a special component plan.
6.1 Modernization of Land Management
6.1.1 The Committee starts by taking cognizance of the failure of the reformist land agenda as detailed by other Committees to arrive at the conclusion that all distortions in land relations are the product of our antiquated Land Management System. The Land Records comprise the base of the Management System. A weak base would not permit any firm superstructure. The records-of-rights in India reflect — (i) ownership rights, (ii) homestead rights, (iii) right of vested land assignees (patta right), (iv) dakhalkar right, (v) share croppers’ right, (vi) lease right, (vii) hold over right, (viii) right regarding forcible possession, (ix) permissive possession right. The first 6 rights are regulated by various State enactments, whereas the seventh is a phenomenon of the Transfer of Property Act and last two rights are regulated by the Indian Limitation Act. More importantly land records and cadastral maps show easement right for roads/paths, irrigation, bathing and other domestic work, sports and games, worshipping in the temples/mosques, burning ghat/grave yard, tending cattle, etc. In the Permanently Settled Areas the records were updated with every new settlement. However, after Independence the records have fallen into arrears and do not reflect the ground realities with the consequence that they are no longer custodians of peoples’ right but rather an instrument of their exploitation. The Committee feels that there must grow a national consensus for maintenance of Land Records followed by application of resources.
Diversity in Record System
6.2.1 The Committee takes a note of diversities in the Land Record System. P S Appu Committee on Revitalization of Land Revenue Administration had suggested a standardized record format, which has not been adopted at the national level. The Committee also notes the increasing pressure on Land Management as the competing demands multiply.
The States have to realize that the objectives of Land Management Systems have changed fundamentally and it has to be prepared for basic changes in the manner in which our lands and records are being managed.
The States also have to take into consideration the changes that have taken place in between and be prepared to revise the system to suit the requirements of the present day demands.
This Committee has not made State-wise policy prescriptions nor was it in a position to do so. Hence, building upon the recommendations of this Committee the individual States have to customize their instruments.
6.3 Response of the Central Government
6.3.1 The Committee takes note of the fact that though land is a State subject the major initiatives have come from the Government of India, the recent one being National Resource Management Programme. The Committee finds that the commitment of funds at the State level to this subject is negligible and therefore recommends:-
(i ) Land revenue administration should be placed under the plan head and should be subject to planning under the guidance of the Planning Commission.
(ii) The Central Government should come out with a National Land Policy and the respective State Government should declare their own land policies.
(iii) The State Governments have to commit resources also as a matter of the State’s commitment to the cause.
6.4 Current Status of Land Management
6.4.1 The Committee has gone into some basic questions like that what are the role of Institutions in Land Management, where do the people figure in and to what extent it is technology driven. The Committee also takes a note of the fact that the Survey and Settlement Operations in the Permanently Settled Areas have not been taken up and where they have been taken up, for instance in Bihar, they tend to never conclude. The Survey and Settlement operations use outdated methodologies, multiple stages or manpower oriented, expensive technologies; there is a lack of trained manpower; they have little understanding of the local traditions and customary rights of the tribals and their transactions are attended by rent seeking behavior. The Committee has strongly argued that the land is in the villages and the owners reside there. The Land Records System has, therefore, to be necessarily people-centric, field oriented and managed with the involvement of the people and their institutions.
There is an urgent need to evolve Survey Operations which can be done within a period of 2 years for a district.
The survey operations need to be compressed into 3 stages.
In a village the Survey Operations should be conculeded in one continumum.
The Survey should utilize the latest technologies for accurate results.
The Settlement of Rent should be left to the village community to decide at the Panchayat level.
The Khatian should be approved by the village community through the Gram Sabha before its final publication.
The Survey Operations should be subject to Social Audit for reducing rent seeking behavior.
6.5.1 The Committee has taken note of the recent technological innovations that have taken place notably the geographic information system and the level of sophistication achieved in the form of Satellite Imagery etc. However, the Committee is firmly of the opinion that every technology, no matter how sophisticated it is has to be backed up by a firm people’s base. The Committee therefore has argued for an Integrated Land Management System:
The States should review their position of survey and their Land Records.
The survey of entire country should be conducted within a period of 5 years.
Once the survey is over the State has to put a regular mechanism for updation.
The village community has to be involved in creation of the data base and conducting the survey.
6.6 Computerisation of Land Records
6.6.1 Computerisation of Land Records represents the future base of the Land Management System. The Committee has assessed the progress of computerization and has words of praise for States like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Goa, etc. However, the Committee would like to specially commend the Bhoomi Programme of Karnataka which has achieved the high degree of integration of the computerized Land Records System with the various application and process. It is also important that what the data base is. The Committee is firmly of the opinion that it is not cost effective enough to have the entries of Khatiyan alone. The ownership and rights data should also integrate with it other forms of data.
The Land Data should include not only the Khata and the Khesra numbers but also other details including history of the land, the registration etc.
The community rights should be clearly specified including rights to common lands waste and barren lands, religious lands, forest lands and submergence area, etc.
Other information including incidence of cultivation, productivity, land use include horticulture etc. incidence of irrigation and sources, cost of irrigation, cropping intensity, availability of drinking water, types of soil etc.
Other details including buildings on land topographical indicators, infrastructure, land use assessment, mining rights etc should also be spelt out.
6.7 Digitisation of Maps
6.7.1 The Committee has also taken a note of the process of Digitisation of Maps and feels that it is in no way less important than creation of Land Records. The two have to go hands together. The Committee has also assessed the Bhu Bharati Programme of Andhra Pradesh for guaranteeing title to land. It finds that the process of aerial photogrametry has obvious problem of accuracy.
Hundred per cent validation by age matching of the digitized print out with the original maps with the technique of superimposition.
Use of Cartosat I or II for greater accuracy as the former self generates its coordinates.
Use of Electronic Total Station is recommended in areas with large canopy.
Role of the Panchayats in Land Management
6.8.1 The Committee has taken note of the inaccuracies in the present mode of the Land Records, the rent seeking behavior and the inadequacies of the dispute resolution mechanism. The PS Appu Committee had recommended handing over the Record Management to the Gram Panchayat and the D Bandyopadhyaya Committee has also some recommendations to that effect. The Committee feels that while there has been an invariable process of democratisation in the governance of other subjects land continues to be institutionally governed to a bureaucratically controlled semi-colonial Management structure wherein the the Patwari and the other revenue functionaries dominate. The present structure is dispute enhancing and litigation promoting. The Panchayati Raj Institution have gained in maturity and have some outstanding work for instance in Heure Bazaar in Ahmednagar and Gopalpura in Rajasthan to mention a few. The Committee feels that a time has come for decentralizing and democratising the land management system.
Full rights of management to vest in the Gram Sabha of the Panchayat in respect of the village Wasteland, Common Lands, land under public utilities, Government Land, Community Lands, dedicated lands etc.
The Management rights will include settlement of lands, removal of encroachment and draw and utilize funds under different programmes of the Central Government.
Mutations in undisputed cases should be done by the Gram Sabha.
In disputed cases it should be referred for conciliation/arbitration
There should be annual updation of records and 6 monthly preparation of Adangal/Khesragirdawari
It also recommends for setting up of Nyaya Panchayats with conciliation, arbitration and adjudication functions.
It also recommends that the Collector should be divested of his direct Court functions and should just retain the supervisory function.
Land Issues in the Tribal Area
6.9.1 As mentioned earlier, the committee finds that land is the critical issue in the tribal areas. The framework of PESA is sufficiently strong but it is not implemented, as Committee IV has noted. Under the new dispensation of PESA the Gram Sabha is the fountain head of all powers and has command over all natural resources in the village and this should be realised.
(i) The land issues in the V Schedule Areas can only be reconciled with a faithful implementation of PESA. The one-point programme of the Government should be the implementation of PESA.
(ii) The Government of India should form a multi-disciplinary team for implementation of this Act headed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
(iii) The role of the bureaucracy would be only supporting the Gram Sabha and facilitating the flow of technologies and training.
(iv) This calls for posting of officers with sensitivity to these areas after having given them a thorough training in the tribal life and customary laws.
The Committee has taken note of the emerging forces in the land market including the rise in landlessness following the liberalization process, urbanization, industrialization, rise in joblessness, deepening of poverty, great distress in rural sector, relaxation of protective legal framework and the great distress in the agricultural sector. The introduction of NREGA has provided succor to the people at the village level and has enhanced their bargaining strength.
The Committee has examined the Bhu Bharati Programme of Andhra Pradesh for providing Guaranteed Title to Land. Though there are some infirmities in the programme structure the Committee of the opinion that this represents the future and must be adopted at the national level.
The Committee has also examined the concept of Land Bank floated by the NIRD based upon the VELUGU Programme of Andhra Pradesh for purchase of land. The NIRD model is an extension of the Land Based SHG Movement in Andhra Pradesh. The Committee feels that this is a strong model. The NREGA has created a push effect upon the Rural Wages and has enhanced the bargaining strength of the landless. There is also the decline in profitability in agriculture [Alagh, 2008]. It is of the opinion that agriculture holds promises for such households contributing the bulk of labour themselves and will contribute to migration of the middle class farmers to the urban Areas. The Land Bank appears an appropriate Institution for accessing of the rural poor to such lands that is released by the middle and large sized classes.
The Bhu Bharati Programme needs a fresh look on particularly in terms of its technological application and its processes of ground truthing.
It may be taken up by other States on pilot project basis leaving the option at the scale of adoption of the programme.
The Land Bank may also be adopted by the States either on pilot project basis or on full scale.
Training and Infratructure
6.11.1 Ushering in changes as momentous as the above would require a competent training support structures and wide spread institutional support.
The Committee recommends setting up of a National Agency for Computerisation of Land Records (NSELR) and at the State levels (SACLR).
Creation of a network of a training institution with some strong Institutions acting as the base and involving institutions like SIRDs, ETC, Survey Training Schools, Survey of India Schools, etc.
7.1 Common Property Resources and Conversion of Agriculture Land for Non-Agricultural Purposes
7.1.1 The Committee opines that the Land Reforms can be carried out appropriately unless there are land use plans of village, states and the nation. Such land use plan should capture the overarching concerns: ecological, food production, livelihood and allocating land for industry and development purposes.
7.1.2 The land use plan can be developed and executed involving people, States and Central governments, and dedicated non-governmental organizations. Thus, absence of a long term perspective is the cause of land related contentions observed throughout the country. Furthermore, absence of long term land perspective on land and land use plan have led to improper recognition of common property resources in the country. This has also contributed to rampant conversion of agriculture land for non-agricultural purposes having detrimental effects.
Common Property Resources
7.2.1 In the context of villages in India CPRs perform several functions in terms of their contribution to people’s livelihood as in household income, livestock sustenance. As per the National Survey Organization’s report, the total contribution from CPRs to household income at a national level is INR 693. CPRs are important from ecological perspective. In most of the hilly regions – south Rajasthan, Western Ghats, Central India, Himalayas and Eastern India large tracts of forests lands are part of many local watersheds. Proper development and management of these common lands is critical to the success of a watershed as they act as reservoirs of water and are also often located along the watershed ridges. Thus, the criticality of CPRs is to support rural livelihoods and ecology.
7.2.2 Lack of clarity on what constitutes CPR – It was realized that there is not much clarity on what constitutes CPRs out of the various categories used by the government for their land use statistics (i.e., 9-fold classification). The lack of clarity towards clear definition of CPR is the root cause of the improper public interventions.
7.2.3 Reduction of lands used for common purpose – In recent years there has been a steady decrease in all kinds of common lands – pastures, village forests, ponds, or even burial grounds. This is due to diversion of CPRs for urbanization, industrial needs, mining practices, pressure of developmental projects like dam, roads, school, homestead needs – distribution to landless families, cremation grounds, playground, etc. Moreover, the area under CPR is threatened due to encroachments by resource-rich farmers.
7.2.4 Tribals and Forest land – Forests have traditionally served as commons both ecologically and economically for the tribals dependent upon them. Biodiversity of the ecologically fragile regions like the north-east and western-ghats also need to be safeguarded to ensure their role as ecological buffers for the burgeoning human population.
7.2.5 Poor land administration: The complex nature of land administration is to the disadvantage of the rural poor. To further aggravate the situation is the inconsistencies in land records.
7.2.6 Absence of a long-term land perspective: A long-term perspective towards land seems to be missing both at the government and community levels. This shows a clear absence of a political will to have this perspective. At the same time, such perspective is not propagated by bureaucrats, too.
7.2.7 Failure of institutional arrangements: Over-exploitation of CPR definitely points to poor-upkeep of these resources. This points to the fact that traditional institutions have either weakened or disappeared and have failed to enforce norms. Also, Revenue Dept control has never been interested in productivity, being too remote to manage and with lack of funds to develop it as their major role has been more of a record keeper rather than that of developer.
A long-term perspective on CPRs should be evolved through developing land use plans of each village, State and the country.
It is not appropriate to provide a uniform national definition of CPR; however, the perspective on which CPR should be defined in the national, state or local contexts is important. It is recommended that CPR should be defined according to its importance to support rural livelihoods and ecology. Thus, according to the 9-fold classification, the following categories of land should be considered as common property land resource:
Cultivable wastes and Fallows other than Current
Common Pastures and Grazing land
Protected and Unclassified Forests
Private land to which common access may exist
Minimum percentage of CPLR in a village: There should be a provision for having at least some percentage of a total land in a village under CPLR. The rationality for capping should be decided by State governments.
Banning on diversion of CPR land for other purposes: Based on the criticality of CPRs, a complete ban on diversion should be approved unless their conversion is in the larger interest of all the users and ecology. The ban should be imposed in the capped CPLR area.
Enumerating CPR in every National Sample Survey: To identify and estimate the magnitude of CPRs in the country the National Sample Survey Organization should enumerate this in every round.
Development model of CPR: The development model for CPR should be similar to the JFM model. The entire rights over the management and use of CPR should be assigned to its users.
Institutional arrangement to govern CPR: For proper management of CPR the role of community-based institutions, the central and state governments, and civil society, especially those working on it are critical.
Disincentives against encroachment: There should be heavy penalty on resource rich farmers who encroach upon such lands.
Protecting existing de jure CPRs: It is high time to safeguard existing de jure CPRs. Funds should be made available and investment should be carried out for their development. To add, diversion of existing de jure CPRs should be banned.
Providing directions to the existing land use boards in each state: The existing defunct state land use boards should be advised and provided guidance to make those effective. They should be provided necessary resources and directions to develop land use plans of each village and thus state.
Re-classification of land based on governance parameters and land use requirements.
Initiating fast track and time bound processes for resolving disputes on CPRs: To resolve disputes over CPRs should be resolved on priority and the central government should initiate fast track and time bound processes for resolving disputes over CPRs.
Removing inconsistencies in land records on priority: The discrepancies in land records in the country should be rectified immediately. This should be solved through carrying out fresh land survey and settlement.
Building public awareness: Building greater public awareness is the need of the hour. More importantly, people’s perspective on CPRs should be thoroughly understood and taken into consideration while designing public interventions.
Better land administration: For the entire recommendations to be executed the land administration has to do its due diligence. Unless there is an initiative and innovation to improve the existing structure, the reforms cannot be implemented properly.
Conversion of agriculture land for non-agricultural purposes
Widespread conversion of agriculture land for non-agricultural purposes is being observed throughout the country. The major drivers of such rampant conversion are decreasing incentives from agriculture, industrialization and urbanization, and changing aspirations of the people. The conversion of prime agriculture land has led to decrease in food production. This has become a huge challenge as India needs to secure food grain for its 1.1 billion people. This allocation of land has led to displacement of large tribal population threatening their livelihoods. More importantly, inequitable distribution of benefits from the new land use, insufficient quantity of compensation, and rehabilitation not operationalised properly is leading to enormous dissatisfaction among the project affected people. This ultimately is leading to gruesome social unrest as witnessed across the country. Such violence can escalate and spread in other parts of the country if the conversion of agriculture land is not addressed relevantly.
Stakeholders’ consent: Consent of all the stakeholders should be considered before land is acquired. This is imperative for smooth implementation and also for getting the right kind of benefits to the people. Thus, Gram Panchayat should be consulted at the time of acquiring land.
Reclamation and development of unutilized and used land: It has emerged from the state visits that in many instances unutilized land acquired for a public purpose is difficult to reclaim. There should be a speedy process to reclaim and take possession of the unutilized land. Moreover, used land, especially in case of coal and other mines should be reclaimed and acquired instead of acquiring agriculture land for public purpose.
Environmental impact and social impact assessments: These assessments should be thoroughly carried out involving the stakeholders before projects are executed. And based on these assessments future course of action should be decided. Social impact assessment is highly advisable to deal with compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement issues.
Barren and uncultivable land should be used for non-agricultural uses: To the maximum extent barren and uncultivable land should be acquired for industry and public purpose.
Better infrastructure designs: At this juncture of the growing economy better design of infrastructures should be promoted. There should be emphasis on approving and promoting multi-storey buildings that occupy less land space, especially for urban development.
Definition of Public Purpose: The definition of public purpose should take into account ecological considerations.
Banning excess land being acquired for public purpose: Developers who acquire land under Land Acquisition Act or SEZ should be prevented from acquiring more land than required.
8.1 The Systems of Land Management in The North-East and Recommend Appropriate Measures in Relation to Them
8.1.1 The inclusion of the northeast in Indian union is a history of recent times. Each state of the Northeast has a different administrative structure under the Constitution of India. Some areas are under the Sixth Schedule and or under special constitutional safeguards. This constitutional provision recognises the existence of the community process and state process with a clearly-delineated spheres and without impinging on one another. Accordingly, it invested the Autonomous District Council with legislative, executive, financial and judicial powers. These councils are expected to create harmony between the administration and the traditional tribal institution.
Some Structural Issues
8.2.1 The Autonomous Districts Councils have failed to a great degree to perform their task, for which they were created. In the absence of a clear provision for co-ordination of their activities with that of the state government, the ADC tend to draw their legitimacy mainly from the state power rather than the community process. The Councils have no legal experts or trained judicial officer to codify the customary laws. Further, the functioning of these autonomous institutions is increasingly subject to party and sectarian politics which has reduced their credibility and affected their development initiatives. The judicial autonmy and the provisions of customary laws are often subject to misinterpretation and even abuse on these accounts.
8.2.2 In the matter of exercise of developmental function, the Autonomous Councils are heavily dependant upon the state governments. Further, the sources of finance for the Autonomous District Councils are more diversified and due to the intervening role of state government, they are generally starved of fund. At present, village councils exist in all states. In Manipur, these are called ‘republics’ and in Mizoram village council. Village development boards (VDBs) are the Naga version of Panchayat Raj system. These bodies are true catalysts for development and therefore in 1980, were given administrative and local mandate.
8.3 Tenure system
8.3.1 In the entire region both the customary laws and government land regulation co-exist. But, in practice, largely the customary laws govern the tenure system. This is particularly the case in the hills. Accordingly, three forms of land ownership namely chief lands, community lands and individual lands are noticed.
(i) Control and management of lands by village chiefs with right to cultivation for individual members Tribes which have strong chieftain-ship systems, follow this kind of land ownership. The tribal chiefs allot lands to the individual families for Jhooming. The chief has the right to determine which plot of land is to be allotted to a person for cultivation. The right of the chief is the right of management of the community resources.
(ii) Lands owned by the villagers collectively – Until recently, individual had access to land resources in the tribal areas only as members of their respective communities. Even today it holds good in most tribal areas, who predominantly practice Jhooming. The land belongs to the corporate group and each family is provided with an adequate plot of land according to its needs and capacity for bringing the allotted land for cultivation.
(iii) Land owned by the individual families – This is applicable mostly in the plains. In Assam, there has been a written law since 1886 and Tripura and Manipur confirm the existence of private ownership of land since 1960. In the absence of an extensive land reform, customary laws govern the private ownership and wherever land reforms were initiated, private ownership has been recognized but without title deeds (patta).
8.3.2 Out of the three land tenural systems that are prevalent in the region the first two are centered on shifting cultivation. This has direct bearing on food security in the region as such a practice contributes to deforestation and soil erosion and in turn, accounts for low productivity.
Issues in Land Administration
8.4.1 Land alienation and landlessness with emerging land use pattern: To begin with, the opening up of tea plantation (in Assam by middle of nineteenth century) and exploitation of natural oil and coal, have brought in new economic activities. These activities have absorbed a large number of immigrant labours, since indigenous population remained with agriculture at a stagnant level. This has effected decline in control over local resources. Secondly, with such emerging commercial values, the land use patterns too experience trends.
The land after Jhooming is never released and put to continued use either for plantation or for permanent cultivation with the right of transfer.
Thus, large area of community land has degenerated into private land either by accident or design of vested interests.
The sale and purchase of land under settled or permanent cultivation has led to emergence of absentee landlords (inherited, purchased or acquired) and with them, the tenancy and share cropping practices.
8.4.2 Ineffective Land Regulation: The major limitation in customary laws is that in most cases, these laws have not been codified. Even where codified, it is often interpreted to suit to the interests of a few. On the other hand, no state has done extensive land reforms. In some cases, though land right was provided, ownership titles have not been issued. This deprives them from accessing resources from the formal institutions. Two issues emerge from this situation. For one, the efficacy of customary laws to address the emerging trend in land use patterns and on the other hand, the capacity of the legal framework to evolve as per the needs of the tribal societies are getting to be seriously questioned. This presents a serious dilemma for both, the central and the state governments whether to expedite privatization of landholding or to encourage community holding for a better management of the greatest resource base of the land and forest, given the contradictory forces operating within the community.
8.4.3 Land Categorization: The land classification situation is different for Assam than for other hill states, which are 100 % tribal districts. Cadastral surveys have not been done at all in these states and the community owns the lands there.
8.4.4 Shifting River Courses: Assam has been battling the problem of shrinking lands due to this. Such Juli lands are a big bone of contention.
8.4.5 Pressure on land : due to various development needs. Demand for the land for the industry has been on the rise continuously. Cases to be noted are the Noonmati refinery, SEZs etc. Displacement has also led to the vulnerable groups being targeted leading to alienation. There is an urgent need for states like Assam to have an urban development policy as the people’s way of life is changing. Diversion should be avoided except for community purposes. Diversion of agriculture land for non-agriculture purposes has been done mainly for Residential Areas etc.
8.4.6 Encroachment on CPRs- Alternatives should be available for the government to prevent the privatization of such common lands. Most of the government land is known as Khaas lands, which includes revenue wastelands and culturable wastelands etc., as well as the VGRs and PGRs. Also we need to differentiate between the encroachments that are done on need basis and greed basis. Many of the such illegal practices have been promoted in the garb of livelihoods such as wood smuggling, mafias etc.
8.4.7 Water Resources should also be considered as CPRs and include wetlands, channels and waterways. No person should be allowed to encroach or damage the water bodies. Wetlands have been considered to be the ecologically most productive areas but till now (even more productive than forest areas) there is no government wing that takes care of it. But overall there is a need for conservation of overall ecology of the area.
8.4.8 Thus ultimately we see that the need of the hour is to create a roadmap for the land prioritization which would try and address the following needs:
Prevention of marginalization of tribal people
Ecological needs and preservation of biodiversity that render ecological services.
Investments in improving the productivity of land
Development and Industrial growth for the 4 million strong population
Improving the capability of people to take development in their own hands.
Recommendations relating to Land System:- The Committee has taken into account the existing debate between privatisation of lands or reinforcing its community character. Retaining and strengthening the community based land management system that prevails in some of the Hills areas of the North-East is in the vital interest of the tribes living therein. Derogation of the traditional system of land management has led to growth often iniquitous land relationship and a differentiated land structure. It has also led to and is likely to lead to undermining the self-governance nature of the tribes and their social institutions.
Not all these States formally recognize the traditional rights of the community within a legal framework. On account of an express legal sanction the Courts often call into question the decision of the communities and decide against them. This lead to further erosion in the authority and prestige of the village council and the traditional system of governance in the region. Hence, there is an urgent need for codification of the traditional rights of the village council and other institutions of self-governance.
In the post-independence era there has been erosion of the status of tribal institutions due to lack of legal recognition The committee therefore appreciates the Nagaland Communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act, 2002, which has contributed substantially to the improvement in delivery and operation of the services communitised and have added to the prestige, strength and authority of the Village Councils and other village institutions. The committee recommends adoption of the same underlying principles and legal structure in respect of land and forest management system in the rest of the Hill areas and such other areas that may choose to prefer this system.
Taking into account the intra-and inter tribal differences in their self-governance and traditional institutions the Committee recommends that even within the formal framework of the proposed Communization Act there should be enough space for the existing traditional institutions and innovations.
There must be a wide spread process of informed consultation the bills are presented before the state assemblies. A consensus must be evolved on these issues within all the District Hills Councils and Autonomous District Councils.
Such an enactment must respect the traditional rights of the communities and their village institutions in land.
The Committee recommends that the States may considred setting up a Village Land Council to manage all common/ village common lands including the waste lands in the village.
The Committee strongly recommends that the Village Community should have the same command over all land resources, water resources, forest resources and mining rights that constitutes the natural resources within the village territory as has been bestowed under Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 in the Schedule V Areas with powers to place reasonable restriction on transfer of ownership lands, leasing, their alienation to the other communities and their restoration.
Land Use Patterns – The VLC shall decide the land use pattern for the village with the approval of the Village Council and Village Assembly. It will also prepare a land use plan defining the agriculture, housing, forest, pasture, agro-industry zones, etc., and will have the same approved by the village assembly.
Management of Village Forests- The VLC shall also lay down policies and rules for felling of tress and plantation of new trees in lieu thereof and lay down the mode and extent of appropriation of forest produce from such village forest land including the sharing of usufruct between the state government and to itself. The VLC shall decide and enforce the community forest rights and may make rules for the same and would be the custodians of the forest rights dwellers and shall be responsible for their enforcement. Thus the group recommends that the VLC shall be the first body for the dispute resolution including counseling, mediation and arbitration before undertaking adjudication and the department officials of revenue and forest should cooperate with this committee. The group recommends that the VLC may make plans for regeneration of forests, watershed management within the village area and may make agreements for this purpose with neighbouring villages or organizations for the same.
Legal Recommendations- The jurisdiction of the Civil Courts should be barred in respect of the decisions taken by the VLC or in the functioning of the VLC. The state government may declare an authority at the block or at district level as the competent authority to hear and decide appeals against the decisions of the VLC. Such bodies may also comprise village elders, social workers and public representatives, in addition to government officials.
Illegal immigration – is a major problem in the area with severe encroachments on the rights and land of the communities. Most of this illegal immigration has taken place with the connivance of the revenue officials. The Committee feels that there should be a strigent clause in the revenue laws that before opening of a new demand the permission of the Collecter should be taken. Besides the community may have the right to remove the encroachment by such illegal immigrants and evict them.
Survey Operations should only take place on demand of the communities and to the extent demanded.
Record of Rights – The records of rights should only have such features as is permited by the Village Communities.
Land Management System – The powers of management of land at the ground level will be with the VLC subject to the control of the General Assembly of the village including creation and management of records. No acquisition and alienation of the land will take place without the informed consent of the village assembly. The role of the State will be to provide support including logistics, technical, and financial support to the village council in management of lands as defined in the sets of the recommendations.
Training – There shall be a State level Training Institute (STI) in all the North Eastern States with its Regional Centers in the remote areas and the State Institute will be linked to a National Training Institute to be created by the Government of India. The STI will impart training to all the revenue functionaries in data entry, data management, satellite imagery, photogrammetry, GPS and other modern techniques and will also impart training in computerisation of land records and digitisation of maps. The STI will be responsible for training all the officials in relevant land and administrative laws of the land. The Government of India will extend financial support both for development of structure and running of training courses.
Administrative Structure – All the above mentioned suggestions can be implemented by establishing a State Level Body including the Revenue and Land Reforms Secretary, Forest Secretary, Finance Secretary, Rural Development Secretary and the secretary of Tribal Affairs. There shall be a separate Directorate of Survey and Land records with separate field establishments of Settlement Officer for preparation of ROR and for reproduction of village maps. The maintenance and updation of land records shall be done by the Collector of the district assisted by the Sub Divisional Officer and his subordinates. There shall be a Land Dispute Readdressal Tribunal consisting of retired judges/officials for hearing and deciding the land dispute cases which cannot be solved by the VLC.