The question and answer game played by our MP’s in parliament

Suresh Ediga

The question and answer game played by our MP’s in parliament

In 2014, one responsible MP asks a question whether income from farming is insufficient for a large number of farmers;

The Agriculture minister responds:
As per Agriculture Census 2010-11, about 85% of the operational holdings are held by small and marginal farmers. Such holdings are generally too small to generate sufficient income for the farmers (http://164.100.47.132/LssNew/psearch/QResult16.aspx…)

Lets rewind the clock now and go back to 1998, 2008 and 2014 and see what the then MPs thought about the landless laborers

1998
The Government are implementing a number of schemes like IRDP, JRY, EAS, IAY, TRYSEM, DWCRA etc. which are designed to benefit the rural poor including landless agricultural farmers/labourers (http://164.100.47.132/LssNew/psearch/QResult12.aspx…)

2008
The Government is monitoring distribution of ceiling surplus land, Bhoodan land and wasteland to the landless rural poor.Besides, several employment generation schemes, like,National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, Integrated Wastelands Development Programme, Drought Prone Area Programme, Desert Development Programme and National Watershed Development Programme for Rainfed Areas etc. are being implemented to benefit the rural poor including landless farmers
http://164.100.47.132/LssNew/psearch/QResult14.aspx…

2014
Other measures taken by the Government for the benefit of farmers include enhancement in minimum support prices of agricultural commodities, increase in institutional credit flow to agriculture sector, debt waiver/relief, interest subvention on crop loans, revival package for strengthening Short Term Rural Cooperative Credit Structure, Crop Insurance, integrated farming system, promoting cultivation of cash crops and supplementing farmer’s income through poultry, fisheries , bee-keeping, etc
http://164.100.47.132/LssNew/psearch/QResult16.aspx…

Same question, but the response involved different programs, different schemes, different policies – but the end result remained the same. Landless farmers continued to suffer and our responsible MPs continue to ask the same questions year after year after year, elections after elections after elections and so goes the question and answer game

Summary of Discussion on Draft National Land Reforms Policy

Moderators Note: Dear Members, While we convey our sincere thanks to all the members who have given response on the draft National Land Reforms Policy (http://rural.nic.in/sites/downloads/latest/Draft_National_Land_Reforms_Policy_July_2013.pdf), we are  happy to share the outputs of the discussion with our esteemed members. Full responses of members are available at: ftp://ftp.solutionexchange.net.in/public/mf/resource/res04091301.pdf.


Summary of Discussion on Draft National Land Reforms Policy

 Overall Observations

Pro-poor and Pro-women policy: Overall, the draft National Land Reforms Policy is pro-poor and pro-women. But three aspects in particular need further consideration: Women’s land rights; Tenancy; and Public Land Bank.

 More focused towards rural land reforms: The ‘Draft National Land Reforms Policy’ seems to be skewed more on rural land reforms. Urban land issues are equally complex though the size might be smaller. Hence the draft would do well to have urban related issues addressed as well. Besides, land use plan for urban areas it will be useful to include the crucial aspect of earmarking ‘dumping space’ for urban wastes. There is hardly any mention of the pro-poor land issues in urban India. The issues of pavement dwellers, street vendors, slum dwellers, un-regularized colonies, and the like are not mentioned in the policy.

Exemption of North Eastern region: The Policy has exempted the states of North-Eastern India and does not seem to be adequately clarifying the reasons for the same.

Introduction needs to be more focused: Introduction part of the policy is perhaps going to serve as preamble of the policy therefore the policy needs to be sharper in terms of its intentions towards the land issue. Land is not a commodity which can be left to market. This is linked to livelihood, culture and dignity of the people and communities. Reading through the entire document, it is somewhat clear that the policy goals are fivefold; a) Land Distribution b) Land Restoration c) Land Protection d) Women’s Land Rights, and e) Institutional Reform for efficiency, transparency and accountability. These five policy goals should be clearly stated in the introduction.

Coverage of Backward Classes in the policy: There has been little mention of the other backward classes (OBCs), Salt farmers (in Gujarat’s context).

Interconnections between demand for agriculture and non-agriculture purposes: The proposed policy needs to address the interconnections of surging demand of land for agricultural purpose and demand of more land for non-agricultural purpose and to strike a balance through land reforms policy.

 Mention of the failures in past with respect to land redistribution : The failures of the past with respect to land redistribution, its equitable distribution and management must be laid out and analyzed along with the considerable data and land use plans already available with the State Governments. This will help in making the policy sharper.

Administrative reforms and improvements in institutional processes: The Policy encompasses a very large set of pro-active administrative, legal and quasi-legal actions to ensure the rights to land of all socially and economically marginalized communities including SCs, STs, Women, Nomads and the like. Additionally, the policy proposes a number of administrative reforms, and improvements in institutional processes to make it more efficient, transparent, and accountable. In the present form, these proposals are scattered in the text. It is useful to have those under a Part-B of the policy.

Budgetary provisions to be given in the report: There are several measures prescribed in the policy that would require substantial budgetary support from the state and central government. Considering the precarious status of the finances of many states, it is almost obvious that the central government will have to provide requisite budgetary support to make it happen. It is not clear whether the central government has computed the budgetary requirement to support implementation of this policy. A brief about the budget support should form part of the policy.

 Specific Suggestions of the Members on various issues of Draft National Land Reforms Policy:

Chapters /Themes Comments/ Suggestions
I.             Introduction

 

 

 

 

Fresh Land use data required and sources of data to be quoted throughout: The India Rural Development Report 1992 data (Para 4 – page 3) could now be redundant as many changes have taken place in the 21 years after the report. NSSO’s data of 2003-04 could be current than 1992 but still is stale comparing to the dynamic status of the issue. Hence a fresh Land Use data and plan would certainly be useful. It will be useful if the source of important data quoted in different sections of the policy, is given.

More desegregated data needed:  Dataset provided in this section and in some subsequent sections, is limited and lacking desegregation of states, category of land issues, constituencies (women, single women, nomads, etc.), longitudinal trends, etc.

II.           Land Use Plan

 

 

 

 

Defining the terms ‘Land Use’: In the ‘Land Use Plan’ defining “Land use” will be useful. The section must also mention the competing interest for the “land use plan” and preparedness for managing those interests.

Prescribing ratio limits to land use: Land use plan must also prescribe the ratio limits to land use for different purpose.

Creating a National Body: A national body on the pattern of development council, under the Ministry of Agriculture should be formed where gram sabha should be recognized as the competent authority for all land related matters.

Monitoring and Accountability: The goals to be completed within specified number of years needs to be specified. Such commitment would make the policy useful in terms of monitoring and accountability.

Process of identification of land: The process for identification of land is also not mentioned in the policy. A uniform method for state to identify the available land must be prescribed in the policy. Different states have different terminologies used for various types of land. Hence it will be good to list out all those known types of land in the document.

Specify the mechanism of preparing land use plans and Master plans: The policy has to carefully draft its positions on how land use plans and master plans would be prepared and finalised. For example in the Introduction itself it is hoped that master plans from the state to the block level will be prepared and areas unfit for agriculture would be allocated for industrial and other non agriculture uses.

Pro-poor land use plan: It would also be important to share all the data generated on current land uses with the gram sabhas and with different stakeholders to jointly arrive at a pro-poor land use plan. This has not been clearly stated in the document.

Ceiling of surplus lands to education institutions needs to be increased and made more than the 15 acres and could be allotted on actual need basis rather than on ad-hoc basis.

Redistribution of un-utilized lands acquired or allotted for public purposes:  It suggests the reversion of land allotted if not utilized for the purpose within 5 years of allotment. Does this include those sold by government for housing purposes? If so, what is the sanctity of a sale deed which gives the right of piece and parcel of land to a buyer, his representatives and / or heirs? This should be adequately clarified and taken care of.

Specify Participatory Process: Policy document may specify that the Land use plan will be prepared in a participatory, integrated  and bottom up manner.

Review existing Land use plans: It will be useful to critically review the existing land use plans for all states, before going in for new land use plan.

Reverse mortgage product for senior citizens: Within the ambit of the Draft National Land Reform Policy, the Government should seriously consider introduction of a financial product so that the asset rich and cash poor senior citizens can fight old age poverty and diversify and reduce the risk of longevity through RAM (Reverse Annuity Mortgages). 

*A Reverse Mortgage is a form of financial arrangement between an ‘Asset Rich-Cash Poor’ Borrower and a Reverse Mortgage Lender. This arrangement allows elderly persons to convert their substantial house equities into loans in the form of cash advances requiring no repayment until a future time.

III. Assignment of Land to the Landless Poor

 

 

 

 

 

Define ‘Landless’ and ‘Time Bound’: ‘Landless’ and ‘time bound’ needs to be defined in this chapter to give more clarity.

Define ‘Public Purpose’: ‘Public purpose’ must be defined in the policy and also the non-public purpose must be categorized. Land allocation for non-public purpose must be prohibited.

Ceiling Limit: Ceiling on land should be decided by each state according to the regional criteria.

Use of donated Land: In the category of ‘Bhoodan land’, the consent of donor should be waved. The demarcation of land available with Bhoodan committee must be completed and then legalized.  In the sub-section of government land, land available with Railways and Defense which is not being used since its acquisition must be taken. These categories must be included in the government land.

Land Donation information on Web: In order to have more transparency, the information about the land donation and also allocation can be made available on the web. People who donated the land should also be listed in an on-line document.

Assignment of land: Bhoodan land and ceiling surplus land, and land for religious institutions are often governed by separate laws. Therefore it is advisable not to include these categories in this section. Separate section may be created for treating ceiling surplus and Bhoodan lands.

Specify State land bank and Community land bank separately (Section-III-a-b): Both these sub-sections discuss about ‘land pool’, but under different sub heads. This is creating confusion which may be rectified. Also section XII discusses again  about ‘land bank’. These two terms have different meanings in different states. It is useful to declare one as ‘state land pool or state land bank (SLP-SLB)’ and the other as ‘community land bank or a community land pool (CLB-CLP)”.

Ceiling Surplus land (Section III-d): Ceiling laws can be implemented only with greater pro-poor political mobilization on the ground which does not exist today. Therefore, this proposal is impractical and not realizable and in fact given the difficult historical implementation distracts from the many feasible points made in the policy.

Land to religious institutions (Section III-h): While recognizing the need to relook at Wakf board’s land, singling out land of religious institution of one community is socially and politically not desirable, particularly when, such issues exist in land given to other religious communities as well. The ceiling limit with regards to land that can be given to religious institutions must be re-considered and it should not be more than 5-10 acres.

Provision of Including additional names if some genuine people are left out: There should be a provision to approach higher authority in time bound manner if someone wants to include his/her name. It is because, there may be a chance when gram sabha with majority can discriminate a person/family/community on any reason. 

A system of surprise check after the allotments of land: After allotment of land to landless poor, there must be surprise checking system and strict rules to stop sell/transfer of this land. Also, it must be provisioned that land should be used by beneficiary only for the defined purpose. There should be a complaint window where anyone can write about any complaint of land misuse by anyone.

IV. Protection of Lands belonging to Scheduled Castes,Scheduled

Tribes and other Marginalized Communities

 

 

 

 

Bring all policy prescriptions pertaining to protection of land of the Dalits, Tribals and Women at one place: Protection and restoration of land have been used in a number of sub sections almost interchangeably, creating confusions around the importance of these two distinct actions. We suggest a) all the policy prescriptions pertaining to protection of land of the Dalits, Tribals and Women be brought under one Section; and b) all such policy prescriptions pertaining to restoration be brought into another section clearly distinguishing the two.

Prescribe the timelines for review: The time line for review of existing laws and policies must be prescribed. 

Restriction on purchase of tribal land – not helping Tribals: The restriction on purchase of tribal land by non-tribals is not helping them at many places. It will be better if some transparent guidelines on fixing prices, land titles, plot sizes which can be sold etc. are issued so that tribal are also able to get better prices.

Special Task Force for Protection and restoration of Tribal land:  A special task force needs to be created at the state level to specifically institute a legal aid programme for protection and restoration of the Tribal land for next five years to address long pending issues.

Land Protection Fund and Land Consolidation Fund (Section IV-c-i and V-c-vi) –  Creation of a Single fund:

Creating two fund mechanisms is cumbersome and confusing to the people for whom it is intended so creation of only one fund to be situated at the Gram Panchayat for both purposes is proposed.

In case of scheduled areas, land cannot be alienated without the permission of Gram Sabha. However, sale and purchase of land among the tribal population is allowed. This provision cannot be taken away by Gram Sabha under Indian laws nor is it desirable to do so.

V. Scheduled Tribes and Land Access

 

 

 

Review of Forest Rights Act: Amendment in Forest Rights Act to rationalize the provision of three generations for other forest dwellers (non-tribal) must be reviewed. Provisions of PESA must be implemented in letter and spirit in cases of mining in schedule V areas.

Forest and Revenue Boundary Disputes Reconciliation and Settlement (iii) – If in case, the allotted land granted under FRA, 2006 have a richer biodiversity, whether such land would be handed over to revenue department once it is proved as a revenue land. Policy needs to clarify the guiding norms under which a forest village is transformed into a revenue village?

VI. Land to the Nomads

 

 

 

More clarity on the method of identifying Nomads: More clarity is required on – how to identify the nomads, and how to ensure that they have not utilized the same facility in some other state.

Settling the Nomads should be part of special development initiative of the MoRD or MoTA, under which at least 10 decimal homestead land and appropriate size of crop-land may be considered through proper piloting.

Right to Minimum Land Holding Act: The proposal to design a “Right to Minimum Land Holding Act” seems to be an attempt to change the definition of ‘Nomad’ and its subjective role in terms of environmental conservation. Whether in long run, the ecological services provided by a nomad would get discounted, the moment he/she is provided with permanent land settlement. Secondly, it do not mentioned about the entitlements provided to a nomad in an Indian society. Under what ground, the land titles would be allotted and legitimately recognized?

VII. Land Rights to Women

 

 

 

Unequal access to land – cause of inequality for women: Women’s right to land is a critical factor in social status, economic well-being and empowerment. Land is also a social asset, crucial for identity, political power and participation in the local decision – making process.

Giving women individual titles: There are contradictory provisions on this count in the draft policy. Some provisions recommend transfers only to women, others as joint titles (see clauses ii, vi, vii, x, xi, xiii).  In some cases, different clauses recommend different things even for the same type of transfer (e.g. homesteads or resettlement).

There is merit in giving women individual titles for the reasons stated in clause vii (p. 18) in that joint titles with husbands give little control to the woman. If a fixed amount is allotted per family then each spouse could be given half the allotment. Individual titles would also work for single/widowed/separated/divorced women.

Include single women as a category and redefine family: It is important to include the category of single women and define family so that women are listed as heads, with land being transferred to women of the next generation.

 

Creating support systems for women for economic security: We need to ensure that women cultivators are not faced with challenges regarding working capital and marketing hurdles and prices.

Build capacities of women to take informed decisions: While women have been given training to take informed decisions on the responsibilities bestowed upon them viz. common property resources etc.

Special Provisions and Schemes for Women: Special provisions and schemes in land allocation are required under CPLR and other programmes for Female headed Households.

Simplification of Administrative Procedures:  Simplifying administrative procedures for women to claim land rights is essential. Often, unfriendly administrative system coupled with complex and confusing procedures prevent women to claim their rights.

Creating conducive Environment to facilitate in claiming for land by the women: Recognizing claim of women over land, legally as well as socially it is important to create an enabling environment where women could assert their land rights through awareness generation, capacity building and changing mindset or social attitude.

Laws related to mortgaging women’s land for loans : Social, religious and legal norms governing dowry practices/inheritance, high cost of marriage/ costly wedding affairs where loans are obtained while mortgaging a piece of land etc. needs to be reviewed and reworked.

More women in decision making: More women in decision making bodies may be seen as a step towards pushing women friendly agenda.

Loans to Women: Loans to women’s group for collective cultivation of land in order to enhance women’s collective land ownership, needs attention.

Priority to Single Women: Single women are one of the most vulnerable categories for land alienation as also during land grabbing. Hence, giving priority to single women in:  protection from land alienation; restoration of alienated land; prevention of land sale out of distress as also in land development is a must. 

Land titles to women on property owned by men: It will be important to intervene in the individually owned property which is largely in the name of men. Hindu Succession Act or any other personal law for that matter is not enough to guarantee land rights for women. The states should be held accountable to see through the implementation of these personal laws by setting up different mechanisms to facilitate the process.

Reserving land for urban poor and its impact on poor women: Discussion on land and livelihood is generally focused on rural poor. However, the urban poor, especially women, also face severe hardships, sometimes face greater difficulties. For example – The rate of urbanization and migration from rural to urban areas is about 35% in Gujarat while the reservation of land is about 10% for urban poor.

Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005: On the Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005 (para viii), some parts of this para are no longer valid in the present form and sentences from “Various provisions need to be reviewed…. State laws related to agricultural land” can be deleted. What we need, however, are mechanisms to ensure that women are not coerced into signing away the shares promised to them by the Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005. A sharing of experiences by grassroots groups on how this can be done would prove useful.

Involving local grassroots groups in Monitoring : Recommendation on speedy implementation of the HSAA (para ix) is a good one. But to be effective, the monitoring needs to involve local grassroots groups as well.  In addition, another recommendation is needed, namely for setting up a systematic mechanism for spreading awareness of the HSAA and providing legal aid to women who need such support.

Marital Property: The issue of marital property is complex and it should not be brought into the land reform policy (clause xiii) since it has ramifications on inheritance and other laws which have to be thought through.

increasing women farmers’ land productivity: In the “Twelfth Plan Working Group on Disadvantage Farmers”, there are many recommendations for increasing women farmers’ land productivity, including Resource Centres at the panchayat level, for providing  them technical inputs, training, information, and help in accessing government services. Hence, clause xx could be modified and extended.

VIII. Homestead Rights

 

 

 

 

Define Homestead Land: ‘Homestead land’ needs to be defined clearly in the Policy.

Problem about the figure of 8 Million having no house : The fundamental problem here is that the “8 million” figure ignores all those extreme poor who have a simple house, but one that stands on a parcel of land that barely extends beyond the footprint of that house, thus providing no, or virtually no, non-housing benefits. From past discussion, probably the best figure to use is “About 18 million” rural households as lacking a “house of their own accompanied by ownership of underlying and adjacent land of, or close to, 10 cents in size.”

No reference to purchase as a source of land:  It has been fundamental to the Homestead program, as actually developed in the field in several States, that purchase of suitable land in the open market, on a willing buyer-willing seller basis, be available as a source of land for the program. 

No Mention of Central Government Funding for Homestead Programme: There is no reference to Central Government funding of a national Homestead program.  Yet, some states, as now, may sufficiently understand the crucial role of a Homestead program in fighting poverty and in addressing land-based grievances to be willing to use their own funds, specifically for land purchase, but a major and truly universal national program must have Central funding (including, as set forth in the draft National Right to Homestead Bill, 2013, for at least 75% of the cost of purchased land).

No mention of Women’s Rights: There is no reference to women’s rights to Homestead land.  There is an extensive Chapter – Chapter VII on “Land Rights to Women” however an explicit statement in Chapter VIII itself would be highly desirable.

No Reference of National Right to Homestead Bill, 2013: Essential specifics are missing.  The draft National Right to Homestead Bill, 2013 lays out a series of crucial points that field experience has shown must be needed if a Homestead program is to succeed but Chapter VIII is extremely brief, ignoring this body of existing experience.  At the very least, as to providing specifics, this draft Policy paper should refer to the existing draft National Right to Homestead Bill, 2013, and should probably refer to and highlight some of the most important provisions that experience has shown are needed for success.

Homestead plots for single women: Women deserted by their husbands, widowed, sex workers and a myriad other forms of singlehood that comes from marginalisation needs to be categorically stated here and access to homestead land and group access to land for livelihoods needs to be given. 

IX. Common Property Resources

 

 

 

Define Common property – ‘Common Property Resources’ must be defined clearly in the policy.

Specifying the purpose for which common land can be used: Just allotting as common land will not solve the problem, but it should be specified for specific purposes. Solid waste is emerging as a key environment issue, land for solid waste management should be made as a compulsory component.

No individual rights over commons: Common lands is a contentious area and while the policy has taken care to state that the identification would be done by Grams sabhas and that there will be no individual rights over commons, in stating that there would be rights of different communities such as nomads, women’s groups landless etc. the document opens up areas of contestation. There is a need for careful drafting of how these rights would be administered, especially in the light of the fact that the policy is also arguing for independent rights over lands for all.

 

Include wasteland groups besides other collectives: As the policy provides for allotment of lands to women’s groups for cultivation and productive investments, such benefit may be made more inclusive by including the watershed groups, which are mostly men SHGs. This will help the producers organization to scale up their operations.

Rural Business hubs and other social infrastructure to be earmarked to one spot: Land should be consolidated such that, ‘common land’ belonging to village Panchayats which can be used in future to develop rural business hub and infrastructure for education, sports, ponds, health and development administration should be earmarked to one spot rather than be scattered across different locations.

Land use departments at the district level and multi-stakeholder committee at the village level : The Policy provides that the common land will be allotted by Gram sabha. But, in many villages, still the Gram Sabha is not active. Hence, land use departments at the district level can form a village level multi-stakeholder committee. This committee be vested with the power of allotting common lands.  This committee’s decision can be approved by gram sabha, so that President cannot manipulate the gram sabha proceedings.

Provision of Financial allocations for developing infrastructure: There should be a provision of allocation of financial resources in village Panchayats to develop infrastructure on this common land to be utilized for community as a whole. 

Development model of CPR (vii) – JFM model has been criticized often as a State commodity, where community rights and facilities are provided lesser scope in terms of development. Instead, a model based on community forest management needs to be emphasized for betterment of CPR.

Water bodies not mentioned in the policy: Water bodies including live and moribund rivers, and flood plains of the rivers are part of Commons that do not find mention here. This needs to be added.

Commons Policy to be mentioned in the policy document: There is a Supreme Court judgment in 2011 asking every state to form scheme of removing encroachment of commons. In response, Rajasthan Government has formulated a commons policy. Though that policy needs adoption based on local contexts, the land reform policy should mention this in the policy.

Use of CPRs should be restricted to women groups, cooperatives or user associations:  Management of CPRs has been rightly mentioned as to be given to its users. However, evidence exists in some states where CPRs under the custody of the Gram Panchayats have been leased out to private parties under a user fee. Also use of CPRs has been diverted to produce Bio-fuels under state dictate. To protect from such tendencies, use of CPRs should be restricted to women groups, cooperatives or user associations as decided by the Gram Sabha. 

Bring in gender perspective: Even among the landless and the poor, women are the most affected so CPR issue needs to be seen from gender lens.

More say of women rather than all women Committees at the panchayat level (xiv):  It would be useful to say that women should have a say in CPR matters through sub group meetings. Committees should not be of only women or only SCs or STs as that forecloses any dialogue between different marginalized groups.There is no reason (clause xiv) why management of common property resources should be only women’s responsibility, nor is there consensus that panchayat committees should take charge. CPR management should be joint gender responsibility with 1/3rd or ½ women members.

X. Tenancy

 

 

 

 

 

Long term lease useful for poor farmers: The government should insist on long term lease so that poor farmers who want to take land on lease can plan its utilization for long term. It will help both the lessor and lessee and maintain heath of soil as well. If lessor wants his land to be vacated, or lessee wants to leave the land, either party may give a notice period of at least six months so that each party can make their alternative arrangements.

No automatic resumption of lease on expiry – needs to be negotiable: All renewals of leasing should be negotiable. The purpose of legal recognition should not lead to well-intentioned restrictions. The purpose of legal recognition is better served if the banks honour this recognition and provide the much desired agricultural credit to the lessees.

Leasing out of land by small farmers: In many areas, small farmers too practice leasing out of their holdings and thus the practice of reverse tenancy is on the increase, because of rising capital intensity of inputs in agriculture. It shows that profitability of small holdings is declining because of their lack of access to inputs, subsidies, and markets. Should reverse tenancy be banned by law, or should one fight market imperfections by helping small farmers and improving their access to inputs and markets?

Long term, Joint cultivation rights to women groups:  For agricultural land, there is merit in giving groups of poor rural women joint cultivation rights on a long term basis (rather than individual titles) as recommended in clause iv.  Working in groups can enhance economies of scale, provide consolidated holdings, and increase access to inputs, credit and overall bargaining power of the marginal and small. Hence, this is an important recommendation which needs to be taken forward by civil society and state governments.

More details on tenurial rights: The country does not have a comprehensive legislation on the recognition of tenurial rights and their governance. Such a law could include a process whereby rights – individual, collective, developmental, and common resources of habitations – are defined, claimed, determined and governed through a democratic and transparent process. The recent Forest Rights Act 2006 is a pioneering legislation in this regard but only pertain to forest land. A similar law for land has to be at the basis on which other components should be built on. This is entirely missing in the present draft.

It would also be useful to refer to the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, 2012” passed by FAO. The Guidelines are available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i2801e/i2801e.pdf

XI. Land Acquisition

 

 

 

 

 

Identifying Non-Negotiable area in context of land acquisition: Considering the urbanization and land acquisition pattern, the land acquisition should be restricted in terms of `Non-negotiable Areas’ including multi cropped irrigated lands which must be used for the purpose of agriculture or forest reserves. The Gram Panchayats or local people committees may be empowered to map out which area in a particular village falls under the category of `Non-negotiable Areas’.

Land Acquisition for restricted purposes only: Compulsory land acquisition should be limited to restricted purposes by the government like schools, road, infrastructures etc. where benefits accrue largely to general public. About a decade back, there was a fashion of SEZs. Many small farmers were made landless by acquiring their lands for SEZs.

Equal rights to both spouses: Any land acquisition should require by law the consent of both spouses (and any other women holding titles in the households). Also the rights of both spouses should be recognized equally in compensation given for such acquisition in any form (compensatory land, cash, equity, etc.).

Acquisition of land by Private needs to be monitored strictly: Purchase/Acquisition of land by private/corporate should be monitored strictly with the involvement of people’s participation committees. The PPP acquisitions should be regulated and land for land schemes may be worked out wherever possible.

Synchronization of land acquisition laws with other laws: All laws related to acquisition of land should be coordinated, integrated and merged with other laws like Environment Protection Act, Biodiversity policies, Forest Right Act, the Coal Bearing Act, Mines Act which requires convergence from various ends in order to uphold the rights of historically disadvantaged groups.

Rehabilitation and Resettlement – Provisions for both directly and indirectly affected people:  Considering Rehabilitation and Resettlement as a Right, social safeguards more specifically those pertaining to women, need to be strengthened. Restoring livelihood should be prioritized.

The definition of Project Affected People (PAP) should take into accounts not only `affected families’ but all such people whose livelihood is affected, even if they do not own the land. These may include forest dwellers, agricultural labourers, share croppers, marginal farmers, landless farmers and artisans. The displaced families should be offered jobs by the corporate/private organization acquiring land with preference given to females within the family with the aim of women empowerment.

Compensation in the name of women: The compensation money should be offered in the name of women to prevent alienation of women from land rights. 

Proportional restoration of community resources under CSR : The scheme of restoring livelihood and offering compensation for land acquisition should be linked to proactive corporate social responsibility programme of the corporate/private sector. The policy on corporate social responsibility must carry this clause of `proportional restoration of community resources’ in ratio of natural/community resources exploited by the corporate.

Livelihood restoration: In terms of land acquisition by corporates, this `accountability clause’ should be extended to livelihood restoration of at least one female member besides monetary compensation.

Appropriate way of calculating compensation: To calculate the compensation an adequate procedure needs to be developed. Both `price’ and `value’ of the land needs to account for while calculating `compensation’.

Upholding rights of the farmers: Innovative methods may be utilized to uphold the right of farmers, and protecting the right to livelihood of others related.  The ownership of land remained with the farmers and all future potential gains in case of land price appreciation also vest with the farmers.

Conscious efforts to protect women especially single women and taking special care in acquisition required: Single women, daughters with no male siblings are more prone to land grabbing and land frauds in areas where land acquisition happens on a large scale.  Women do not have access to information on land being acquired and even if land is acquired with consent, all negotiations take place only with men.  Compensation for the land is only to the ‘land owner’ – mostly the man; not recognizing women’s role in agriculture; although the impact of loss of livelihood is much more on them.  Poor widows and single women are the first target for land grabbing; they are disentitled without their knowledge.

XII. Land Bank

 

 

 

 

 

Suggested ‘Public Land Bank’: A public Land bank is suggested under the land reform policy. This was a major recommendation of 12th Plan working Group, but the idea of Public Land Bank was quite different from the Land Bank idea in the NLR draft policy.

A Public Land Bank (PLB) (registered as a Society) would be created at the panchayat level. Land owners would “deposit” in the PLB land parcels that they do not want to cultivate. The deposit would be on a voluntary basis and could range from one season to several years. The depositors would receive an incentive payment per hectare on deposit, the amount varying by period (analogous to current, savings and fixed bank deposits), with an additional amount being paid if the land gets leased out. The landowner would be free to withdraw the land with due notice. Since the PLB would serve as the intermediary between landlord and tenant, the landlord would have no risk of losing the land title to the tenant. The PLB would lease out the land under its command to disadvantaged farmers, such as marginal farmers, women, dalits, and tribals. These lessees (as individuals or groups) would get a guaranteed lease, fixed after assessing land quality and in a consolidated plot where possible.

(For details see the Twelfth Plan Working Group Report and the article http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-01-12/edit-page/30616712_1_land-acquisition-lease-land-laws )

XIII. Resolving Land Problems including litigation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instituting ‘Paralegal Assistance Centers’ – a better option:  There is no evidence that fast track courts and tribunals have made the legal process efficient, cost effective and inclusive for the poor. On the other hand, the paralegal experience of Andhra Pradesh has indeed helped the poor in solving their land related disputes in very large scale. Therefore, instituting a paralegal assistance center should be the main focus of the policy for next five years. The AP experience is special in many ways and cannot be replicated in many parts of the country. It is recommended that Paralegal Assistance Center be situated at the Tehsil and embedded with the Revenue Department to carry out this work.

Property in Joint Names:  ‘Houses in joint name’ is one such reality which would not stand in the court of law if challenged simply because the Hindu Succession Act exists and property ownership would be judged on that basis. It would be thus important to study the contradictions that may arise between the law and the ground realities before introducing such Government orders as a populist measure.

XIV. Modernization of Land Records

 

 

 

 

 

Creating new Authority – not required for land updating records: The section rightly recognizes the need to update land records, through survey settlement and mutation process. However, creating a new authority at Delhi will not achieve that. The revenue department of the states needs to take time bound pro-active land records updation campaigns on the ground to update all land records.

Computerization of Land Records: Practical steps need to be taken to ensure proper and correct land records. Why has the programme of computerization of land record not succeeded in its objectives? The question is – Should the mutation office be merged with land records office at the sub-district level?

Process of Participatory Land Mapping to be adopted: The use of GIS and GPS technology must be accompanied by the local knowledge available with Gram Sabha. Process of participatory land mapping must be incorporated as process to strengthen the land records. Natural Resources Accounting and deployment of Geographers at the block level / panchayat level is needed.

GIS and GPS technology must not be sole factor in deciding land ownership claims: GIS data cannot be the sole factor in deciding land ownership claims (Ref:  recent judgment of the Gujarat High Court as well as a Birsa Munda Bhawan Government Resolution). There have been numerous instances of GIS data conflicting with the situation on the ground and resulting in denial of justice and land rights to the vulnerable. While strengthening GIS is important, the policy must build in the following safeguards.

GIS data needs to be approved by Gram Sabha: All GIS data must be placed before the Gram Sabha for its approval before being cited in land disputes/claims.

Documenting and analyzing the data on women’s access to land: To facilitate a better understanding of ground reality to enable appropriate planning strategies, it is important that documenting and analyzing the data on women’s access to land is undertaken.

Gender disaggregated data required before computerisation:  As a part of monitoring, we need gender disaggregated data collection in our agricultural census and land related National Sample Surveys. Gender disaggregated data for the tenure of all types of land is required when computerization of land records is done. We also need careful monitoring to ensure that in the process of computerizing land records women’s claims are entered judiciously.

Role of Panchayats: Women’s (daughters, widows) names are removed from the family tree, sometimes with the support of village revenue officials, sometimes without their knowledge. Role of Panchayats could be strengthened to prevent cases of land disputes especially those affecting women, if these types of entries are read out in Gram Sabha in public.

XV. Empowerment of Gram Sabhas in Scheduled Areas

 

 

 

 

Gram Sabha need not be given responsibility of functioning as an Executive Authority: While the policy rightly focuses on the centrality of the Gram Sabha in matters of non-private lands in scheduled areas, the language of this section is sometimes misleading. The central strength of Gram Sabha lies in its deliberative character and authority, but it appears that the policy is proposing that Gram Sabha be given executive authority. That should be avoided.

Making Gram Panchayat responsible for land records – not feasible: This section makes an attempt to make the Gram Panchayat directly responsible for land records, and its repository. This is too difficult to implement. It will be good to make the office of Patwari accountable to Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabha, in matters of all non-private lands in scheduled areas.

XVI. Land Administration

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thorough review and re-crafting needed: This section has too many sweeping recommendations and declarations, without providing the contexts, justifications, any good practices to learn from, and what many of those aim to achieve. This section needs to be thoroughly reviewed and re-crafted with a few top priority actions.

Conversion of Agriculture Land: Conversion of agricultural land not only for industrialization but also for house constructing activity should be strictly contained. Land should not be de-notified to facilitate agri-land to be converted to residential land

XVII. Training and Capacity Building

 

 

 

 

 

More details on training needs, training institutions required: This section too suffer from inadequate understanding of the training needs, available training institutions and their capacities, available good practices, and what are the most critical components of moving forward. Both these sections are reviewed and re-crafted based on hard realities, and available good practices.
XVIII. State Land Rights Commission

 

 

 

Defining and elaborating the role of State Human Rights Commission: Definitions and role of State Land Rights Commission must be elaborated in the policy document and should not left for subject to interpretations. There must be interaction between the State Land Rights Commission and the proposed mechanism under the Department of Land Resources (DoLR)
XIX. Implementation of this Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detailing out the implementation mechanism including monitoring, penalties and incentives: The policy must give details of the composition, functioning, powers and mandate of this mechanism. The draft should expand clarifications on implementation, penalties and punishments for non-adherence and non-compliance. How the policy will be monitored and how implementation will be ensured in a time bound manner are fundamental questions that need to be answered concretely within the policy itself so that appropriate feedback can be provided by stakeholders.

 

It is necessary to specify the steps that should be taken if a state government fails to adhere to a strict timeline to implement the land reform programmes.

System of reporting about the progress of implementation in State Legislative Assemblies:  The policy must set disaggregated % targets for the amount of land to be distributed amongst SCs, STs, OBCs, women etc. every year. The achievements against this must be part of the annual and bi-annual reports before State Legislative Assemblies and meetings of the State Revenue Ministers. The Department of Land Resources must lay the progress on implementation of the policy (including these targets) before Parliament.

 

“HUNGER AND NUTRITION: TIME TO ACT” Amartya Sen Argues for an Improved Food Security Bill

(New Delhi, 15 February 2013)

Speaking to an enthralled audience of 1,500 students and faculty at IIT (Delhi) today, Amartya Sen said that the idea of the National Food Security Bill was “a matter of appreciation and support”, and that the tabling of the Bill in Parliament was in itself a big achievement.  However, he also drew attention to various shortcomings of the Bill and argued for it to be strengthened, particularly in terms of children’s entitlements.

Also in this panel discussion on “Hunger and Nutrition: Time to Act” were Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission), Shantha Sinha (Chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights) and Shyama Singh (NREGA Sahayata Kendra, Latehar District, Jharkhand).  Shyama Singh, an Adivasi activist from Latehar District in Jharkhand, opened the discussion with a spirited account of people’s struggles for their basic entitlements, including employment under NREGA, land titles and the Public Distribution System. She paid homage to her friends Lalit Mehta and Niyamat Ansari who have lost their lives in this struggle.

Recalling the critical importance of early childhood for lifetime health and wellbeing, Sen deplored the fact that children’s entitlements under the food security bill were so weak. Recent Supreme Court orders on midday meals and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), he said, have made an important contribution to the health and nutrition of children. The Bill, he felt, should not dilute these entitlements in any way.

Sen also stressed that health, nutrition and elementary education were important in themselves as well as for long-run economic success. Neglecting children is not only unjust but also an economic blunder.

Shanta Sinha, chairperson of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also pleaded the case of young children and criticized the National Food Security Bill for giving them a raw deal. She took issue with the Parliamentary Standing Committee report on the Bill, which suggests replacing children’s entitlements with an additional allocation of 5 kgs of foodgrains per month for pregnant women under the PDS. The word “anganwadi”, she pointed out, is not even mentioned in the revised version of the Bill, despite the critical importance of ICDS services for children. Shantha Sinha also criticized the proposal to restrict maternity entitlements in the Bill to the first two children.

Amartya Sen recalled that the principles of free and universal provision of essential health, education and nutrition services were part of the country’s vision at the time of Independence. It can be found, for instance, in the Bhore Committee Report on health, 1946. The country needs to revive this broad view of the links between human capability, economic success, and social justice.

Professor Sen recalled in particular three advantages of universal coverage when it comes to basic public services and social facilities. First, it makes these facilities a matter of citizens’ right, and avoids any exclusion. Second, it ensures that powerful and influential people have a stake in them. Third, universal coverage helps to avoid corruption.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia agreed that malnutrition among children was indeed a national shame, as the Prime Minister himself put it a year ago, and gave credit to civil society for sensitizing the government to this issue. Also a matter of shame, he said, was the state of nutrition statistics, with the latest comprehensive data on child health and nutrition going back to the Third National Family Health Survey, conducted in 2005-6. He stressed the need for a range of interventions, related for instance to immunization, breastfeeding, drinking water and sanitation. He said that the government was also committed to a Public Distribution System that provided access to subsidized grain. Anticipating concerns from the business media and others about the costs of the food bill, Ahluwalia said: “I don’t think the government or anyone else should say that we can’t afford the food subsidy because of the fiscal deficit… that would be actually dishonest”. He added, however, that funding the Bill might call for a reduction of other expenditure.

Professor Sen also spoke about the politics of food and other subsidies.  He pointed out that there are powerful lobbies for diesel and LPG subsidies, and even for exemptions of custom duties on gold imports, but not for children’s rights.  Because of these imbalances of power and influence, there are also massive imbalances in India’s spending priorities.  In his concluding remarks, Sen argued that better practice of democracy was the way to bring about constructive change, and invited everyone to contribute to it.

Dr. Reetika Khera (IIT, Delhi), who chaired the discussion on behalf of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, spoke about the findings of recent field surveys of social programmes such as NREGA and the PDS, conducted by student volunteers. One of the main insights of these surveys, she said, was that these programmes can make a real difference to people’s lives – something that the media, and even academic research, often fail to report.

For further information, please contact Ujjainee Sharma (9818364825ujjaineec@gmail.com) or Reetika Khera (9958801227,reetika.khera@gmail.com).

For a full video of the discussion see www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve7QqUeAzmA&feature=plcp

 

Parliamentary Standing Committee Report on LARR Bill

Parliamentary standing committee report on LARR

The committee took note of the lackadaisical way in which feedback and consultations were held on this Bill (pasted below). Read the attachment for the actual recommendations on the contents of the Bill.

Since the Cabinet
approved the Draft Bill on 5 September, 2011 and the Bill was introduced in Lok
Sabha on 7 September 2011, the Committee find that there was hardly any time at
the disposal of the Government to seriously consider the suggestions received
from the stakeholders.   The Officers of DOLR were candid in their admission
before the Committee that suggestions from the stakeholders were still being
received.  The Committee deplore the casual approach of the Government in the
matter.  Even though the Government took over two years in bringing the Bill
again they hardly gave any time to the stakeholders, including Central Ministries
and State Governments concerned to submit their views and also to consider the
same.  The Committee‟s examination has also revealed that not only the State
Governments, some of the Central Ministries concerned like Ministries of Urban
Development, Panchayati Raj, Tribal Affairs etc. are at variance with the DoLR in
respect of contents of the Bill.  It is against this backdrop that the Committee
invited suggestions from the general public, industry, farmers, NGO’s, experts,
Central Ministries, State Governments etc.  

Policy Opportunities for Agroecology

http://www.ukfg.org.uk/orfc2012/

A strategy session to discuss policy opportunities to promote ecological and equitable models of sustainable food production and consumption.

Friday 6th January, 13:30 to 15:30, Old Law Library


Chaired by: Patrick Mulvany

Speakers: Julia Wright, Geoff Tansey, Michel Pimbert

While “local food webs”, many of them ecological, will continue to feed most people in the world, “top-level processes” will grab the headlines. Some will culminate in 2012, including the UN Rio+20 conference and the launch of the ‘Green Economy’. Other UN processes, on the governance of food, biodiversity and climate change will continue to seek sustainable outcomes. In Europe, CAP reforms will be a hot topic. The UK will stage a global scientific event “Planet under Pressure” which will discuss solutions, at all scales, to move societies on to a sustainable pathway, providing scientific leadership towards Rio+20.

In this context, the session will focus on how to change mindsets towards the benefits of ecological and equitable models of sustainable food production and consumption in the UK, Europe and Internationally. What opportunities exist for the UK’s and the world’s pressure groups to influence thinking and the outcomes? How can the small-scale food producers’ policy proposal of food sovereignty take root – a proposal which addresses all aspects of sustainability?

The session will ask questions about the UK’s food footprint in its export of unsustainable models of production to other regions. Also questions about the UK’s demands from other regions for commodities produced industrially using British technologies and products may be addressed. These are topics that are also likely to feature prominently in discussions in the run-up to the UK’s 2013 Presidency of G8/G20.


AGENDA & PRESENTATIONS

Audio is available in both Windows Media (WMA) and MP3 formats

Welcome

Introduction: Patrick Mulvany – opportunities to promote ‘Ecological Food Provision’ in the framework of food sovereignty (8 min) Presentation (PDF 130Kb);  Audio (WMA 1Mb);  Audio (MP3 1.2Mb)

Julia Wright: how to ‘Change Mindsets’ towards the benefits of ecological and equitable models of sustainable food production and consumption in the UK (13 min) Presentation (PDF 280Kb)Audio (WMA 1.7Mb)Audio (MP3 2.4Mb)

Michel Pimbert: how to promote thinking about the ‘Transformation of the Food System’at all levels so that it puts the realisation of food sovereignty at its heart (13 min)Presentation (PDF 860Kb)Audio (WMA 1.7Mb)Audio (MP3 2.4Mb)

Geoff Tansey: why and how food is at the heart choosing our future world, who’ll dominate it, in part through the ‘New Enclosures’ facilitated by the extension to living systems of the global patent regime, etc (15 min) Presentation (PDF 247Kb)Audio (WMA 2Mb)Audio (MP3 2.9Mb)

Discussion We will discuss and seek ideas about how to develop and occupy policy and communications spaces, identifying who will help achieve this. Panel Comments (11 Min) Audio (WMA 1.4Mb)Audio (MP3 1.9Mb)

Actions: for example, developing work in support of the APPG Agroecology – proposal for a UK Agroecology Alliance. Download PDF of UK Agroecology Alliance paper (250kb)

Final Discussion and Panel comments (26 min) Audio (WMA 3.2Mb)Audio (MP3 4.6Mb)

 

Report on Strengthening the Role of Agriculture for Nutrition Secure India

The Indira Gandhi Institute ofDevelopment Research(IGIDR), Mumbai and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), New Delhi organized a workshop ‘Strengthening the Role of Agriculture for Nutrition Secure India’ on 13 September 2011 at New Delhi.

In his welcome and opening remarks, PK Joshi pointed out that the concerns of hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and undernourishment should take our thinking beyond growth. He also mentioned that one per cent growth in agriculture has a greater impact on poverty reduction than a similar growth in non-agricultural sector.  He urged the need to look at agriculture and nutrition linkages through three lenses – economic, social and governance.
S Mahendra Dev indicated that one of the purposes of the workshop is to bring in agriculture-nutrition linkages into the policy making exercise. In particular, the twelfth five year plan. Five concerns that he raised are (a) to increase productivity of rainfed resource poor regions with an emphasis on small and marginal farmers, (b) to diversify the diet beyond cereals and include locally available nutritious food, (c) to curb food inflation, particularly for proteins like pulses, (d) a greater need for empowerment of women, and (e) convergence of agriculture with other programmes. Also see his recent co-authored policy note, Pro-nutrition agriculture in India.
In his inaugural address, Vijay Vyas used some recent nutrition indicators on children and women from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) where India is nearly at the bottom. In addition to low levels, he also pointed out their persistence and in some cases deterioration of malnourishment. To a large extent, India has addressed the issue of chronic hunger. But seasonal hunger, particularly during the period after sowing and before harvesting, for some sub-groups of population in agricultural communities is a matter of concern. However, when it comes to calorie-protein adequacy and micronutrient requirements we are still below the norm. We are not even able to provide 1800 calories to many and then again a substantial amount of what is provided is only through cereals. Thus, it is not just agriculture, but also the dietary intake, economic accessibility and environmental factors that matter. He reiterated the pivotal role of agriculture both as a supplier but also as a sector that can generate maximum demand. He called for more production, more variety in terms of nutri-cereals, fruits and vegetables and to make this possible the need for changes or a move beyond rice and wheat through policies of pricing, credit facilitation, distribution and institutional reforms among others.
The keynote address was given by RB Singh who began by quoting Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine be they food” and then goes on to reiterate Dr Vyas’s point by presenting actual data on India’s poor nutrition indicators in a global comparative perspective, particularly with Brazil and China, for undernourishment, underweight children, low birth weight, low body mass index of mothers, greater fertility, higher child anaemia, lower expenditure on child care, lower vaccination, lower mother’s literacy and lower public expenditure. Both Brazil and China also intervened on clean drinking water, sanitation hygiene, education and awareness and backed this up with political will. He reminded the gathering about the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 reiterating the need for Lifelong Livelihood Security and how neglecting issues of child malnutrition can have adverse impacts on the economy. There is immense scope for research towards leveraging agriculture for nutrition. He put up a case in favour of new technology for seeds, but on genetic engineering he said that cisgenic (genes taken from the same species or a closely related one) will have certain advantages and less regulatory requirement when compared against the transgenic (genes from other species like the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt). He also highlighted the importance of home/kitchen garden in meeting most of the micro nutrient deficiencies. He praised the rich gene biodiversity of India and said that we should maintain it and propagate agro-ecologically differentiated practices. Keeping the importance of children in this concern of nutrition, he concludes by showing the picture of a child with the caption “Hold my today; I will hold your tomorrow.”
In her presentation, Suneetha Kadiyala began by highlighting the overall scenario in India, higher growth, but not doing well in human development dimension and with much higher share of poor and malnourishment (both undernourished and overweight). The agriculture sector is not doing well and one has observed a high food price index. In the global hunger index, India is not doing well and the state-specific hunger index also does not augur well for almost all the states analyzed. To address nutrition problems, direct interventions like infant feeding and bio-fortification could address only one-third of the problem whereas indirect interventions through agriculture, social protection, education, health system, and women’s empowerment turn out to be important. Some of the emerging findings from their recent study are as follows. (a) A cross-country analysis indicates that agricultural growth helps in the reduction of stunting, but the result weakens when Indian states are included in the analysis suggesting a poor linkage ordisconnect between agriculture and nutrition in India. (b) There is a data disconnect as the existing information make it difficult to analyze the said linkage. (c) Over the years, dietary diversity has increased and the food base has moved to non-cereal sources but mother’s education and household income seem to have a positive impact on diversity. Some of the key entry points from her presentation are that household income matters, agriculture influences dietary pattern, women’s asset ownership is critical for decision making and nutritional outcomes, and that direct health and nutrition interventions matter.
Praduman Kumar’s talk was from a small holder perspective. It began with the contrast that at an aggregate level, India is self-sufficient in food, but it also has the largest number of hungry and poor and most of them happen to be agricultural labourer and marginal farmers with less than one hectare of land. The presentation pointed out that demand, particularly of non-foodgrain crops will increase, but supply will not. This will increase prices and reduce per capita consumption and also have an adverse affect on dietary diversification. Thus, for a food/nutrition secure India we need to focus on livestock, education, irrigation, aquaculture, horticulture, and dryland agriculture. There is a need to bridge research and policy gaps and integrate them with local wisdom. The presentation ended by showing a critical triangle with the three dimensions being food security and agricultural growth, poverty reduction and rural development, and environmental sustainability.
The next presentation was on Food Security Atlas of Rural India by Preet Rustagi, which was based on a district level exercise for rural areas of eight states. At the district level they came up with two indicators – one on food security based on 12 indicators (of which four were on availability, six on access and two on absorption) and an outcome indicator based on underweight children and under-five mortality. From the 281 districts, 101 are food insecure (all the 18 in Jharkhand, most (13 out of 16) in Chhattisgarh, 29 out of 45 in Madhya Pradesh and 19 out of 30 in Odisha and the relatively food secure districts are mostly in Uttar Pradesh (16) and one each in Maharashtra and Rajasthan. There is a clear connection between food insecurity and low irrigation, poor connectivity, income insecurity, hilly terrain, higher proportion of scheduled tribes and scheduled castes, higher proportion of agricultural labourers, low agricultural wages and low female literacy. However, there did not seem to be much connection with the outcome indicators. Severe or extreme insecurity in outcome were observed in 82 districts (31 in Uttar Pradesh, 26 in Madhya Pradesh (there could be some connection here) and 15 in Rajasthan).  The way forward is to focus on the food insecure and poor outcome districts on various associated risk factors, but the interventions should be locally relevant.
Speaking from a gender perspective, Bina Agarwal brought into the discourse some welfare and efficiency concerns. She vouched the concept of land bank, which can act as a depositor of landowners and creditors to tenants. The landowners could be given some minimum returns and higher returns if the land is put to use by tenants. The latter can work in groups, but they need not worry about going to individuals for leasing in. She also mentioned about integrating other support services for the final tiller.
Coming back again, S Mahendra Dev raised some additional issues. The question of availability/access is important, but so is the productivity of water. This reminds RB Singh’s keynote that one kilogram of potato requires 900 litres of water but one kilogram of beef requires 15,500 litres of water. The other concern is that of climate change, as it could adversely affect the yield. Other matters of concern are to bring nutri-cereals into the public distribution system, who should grow pulses (small or large farmers), the slowing growth of fruits and vegetables (or as someone said, the slowing down of horticulture revolution), bridging the gap in prices between what farmers receive and what consumers pay, and the need for convergence of different district level plan through the panchayati raj institutions. An important point that came up during the discussion is the increasing input costs and adverse impacts of pesticide usage.
Veena Rao, a bureaucrat, lamented that nothing much happened out of the National Nutrition Policy 1993 and the National Plan of Action on Nutrition 1995 where the linkage between agriculture and nutrition was spelt out. However, some of these have been taken up in the Karnataka Nutrition Mission. The important ones being that nutrition is to be addressed from a life cycle approach – infants, children, adolescents, lactating and pregnant mother; bridging calorie, protein and micronutrient deficiency through appropriate intervention to different target groups; accelerating, integrating and tightly monitoring multi-sectoral ongoing programmes; achieving convergence between different programmes and covering pragmatic gaps; involving civil society and community; launching awareness and making available nutritious and energy rich food at lower cost through public-private partnership. This reminds me of the ‘health and nutrition’ intervention through the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) in Andhra Pradesh. In some villages where nutritious food was given to lactating and pregnant mothers, the cost of food in some villages could be met by the participants doing some packaging work for the local grocery shop, and as a result none of the child births in this village was less than 3.5 kilograms – the proof of the pudding lies in its eating.
Kaustav Banerjee, representing the revitalizing rainfed agriculture, pointed out that from the perspective of availability at the aggregate level one should not be worried for foodgrains as a whole. While there availability at a local level does matter, but a matter of greater concern is the unavailability of millets in adequate quantities even at an aggregate level. Further rainfed agriculture comprises two-thirds of the farmed area but has attracted comparatively less policy design and interventions. Thus, there is the need for a new architecture to address this, which should be holistic and integrate agriculture with livestock and area development.
Comparing the Empowered Group of Ministers draft versions of the National Food Security Act to that prepared by the National Advisory Council, Biraj Patnaik pointed out that the former has several shortcomings. It does not have the definitions of some important concepts such as child, malnutrition, starvation, job chart and health centre upfront and the definitions of foodgrains, homeless person and public distribution system are relatively restricted. The entitlements for a person per day have been reduced from four to three kilograms of foodgrains. There are no special provision for single women, lactating and pregnant mothers, malnourished children and emergency and disaster affected persons. More importantly the rights of the people living with starvation have been watered down. As a result, the links with nutrition is  absent. He also raised the attention of the house to two other things. The global land grab in Africa where many countries (including India) and private companies (including Indian) are leasing in land to produce food to address shortfalls in their own countries, besides building food reserves to make gains through speculation and trading, is contributing to less land being available for the production of food for the local economies in Africa. The other concern was on the role of the commodities futures markets and its implication on food prices (see the Report of the Expert Committee To Study the Impact of Futures Trading on Agricultural Commodity Prices, particularly the note by the Chairperson of the committee, Abhijit Sen).
In his remarks, Sukhadeo Thorat pointed out that some vulnerable social groups suffered more in terms of malnutrition. If one factors in the gender dimension, women from these social groups are found to be suffering more. To address this, there is need to have a group specific policy. He also pointed out that the larger scheme of things makes the farmer take a decision on crop production based on profitability and not on nutrition. See his co-authored policy note addressing the unequal burden of malnutrition.
Ramesh Chand began by pointing out the weakening link between agriculture and nutrition and the paradox of higher production as also high prices and hunger existing concurrently. He raised the concerns of India being a global diabetic capital, of whether lower consumption of 1400/1600 kilocalorie by some people is because of absence of purchasing power or low requirement based on different homeostatic conditions, and of the fact that people continue to avoid purchasing nutri-cereals even in those regions/areas where their prices are lower than rice and wheat. The homeostatic argument reminded of PV Sukhatme’s dissent note to the Report of the Expert Group on Estimation of Proportion and Number of Poor, pp.46-49.
Pravesh Sharma, a bureaucrat with the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium, made the last presentation where he outlined three things. First, he pointed out that the institutions of the 1970s that were meant to achieve a macro level food sufficiency are not appropriate to address livelihood and nutrition security. There is need to encourage producers organizations that embed technology credit and market and are also linked to pathways that foster food and nutrition security. Second, there should be diversification at the household or village level, which on the one hand will spread the risk of the small farmer, and on the other will also give the farmer household a healthy and varied nutrition basket. Third, there is a need to encourage the non-farm sector with good backward and forward linkages, as this would be of help for the small and marginal farmers, the local region as also the overall economy.
The day’s session ended with the remarks from Liz Drake,Department for International Development (DFID) and the hosts S Mahaendra Dev, Director, IGIDR and PK Joshi, In-charge, IFPRI, New Delhi. The takeaway from the exercise is that a small group will work towards formulating key policy suggestions that would be submitted to the Government of India. From IGIDR’s perspective, my personal reading is that this was a nice collaborative exercise with IFPRI and in New Delhi and one is looking forward to more such endeavours in the future.
(This is like a rapporteur’s report. It represents my personal views of what I pick from the presentations and at times when I go a little beyond and give my remarks. I thank Bhaskar Goswami for his suggestions on an earlier write-up.

Supreme Court’s judgment of 2nd September 2011 in Andhra Pradesh Dairy Cooperatives case: says protection available under Art. 14 & 19

Supreme Court endorses Cooperative Principles and says
Protection under Articles 14 and 19 is available to Cooperatives

[Supreme Court’s judgment of 2nd September 2011 in Andhra Pradesh Dairy Cooperatives case:
A note on from Rama Reddy, Hyderabad]

Dear friends of cooperatives,

1. These are the days of the Reddy Brothers of Karnataka, Jagan & Kiran Reddys of Andhra Pradesh, etc. More than proverbial twice, I asked myself whether it was the right time for Rama Reddy of Hyderabad to get into circulation. Since I have to share with you a significant event on a subject of mutual interest to you and me, there is no escape from writing a note, after a long time, for your perusal. I hope that it will be informative and interesting. If it is not so, my apologies to you for taking some of your precious time.

2. My training in and practice of Journalism have not changed my thought process much; on most occasions, my narrations will be in chronological frame. I am an avid reader of print media and a keen viewer of electronic media. However, it is of not much help when I start to write a news story. Your level of tolerance has to be quite high when you read my notes.

3. This is once again a story of “Goliath and Davids”. In this story, the Government of Andhra Pradesh is “Goliath” and Dairy Cooperatives in Andhra Pradesh are “Davids”. All-powerful governments rarely learn lessons from experiences and, therefore, ordinary citizens have to teach them tirelessly the same lessons repeatedly.

4. NT Rama Rao (NTR) never thought of himself as a social and political animal like you and me; he thought of himself as a divine incarnation, who takes birth on this planet once in a millennium. As the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, he was in the habit of granting boons occasionally. In 1995, he saw to it that the State Legislature enacted a new liberal cooperative law, without repealing the old regressive law on cooperatives. The old law is titled “Andhra Pradesh Cooperative Societies Act 1964” (henceforth the 1964 Act) and the new law is titled “Andhra Pradesh Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Act 1995” (henceforth the 1995 Act). The new law is also known as the MACS Act. The new law was one of those few boons that NTR granted to the ordinary mortals like you and me. He, thus, sown a seed that sprouted to start a significant change in the course of cooperative history in the country. On similar lines, state legislatures enacted liberal and parallel laws in eight other states.

5. Thrift Cooperatives and Dairy Cooperatives flourished and continue to flourish under the 1995 Act. Most of the thrift cooperatives are newly registered under the 1995 Act and most of the dairy cooperatives have migrated from the 1964 Act to the 1995 Act. The process of migration is permissible under the law.

6. The Congress Party, under the leadership of YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR), won the 2004 General Election and formed the Council of Ministers, YSR as the Chief Minister. For two full years, the Congress Government explored all possible executive actions to replace the elected boards of the eight District Dairy Unions, which were working in the 1995 Act, by its party nominees. Finally, it realised that no provision in the 1995 Act allows the Government and/or the Registrar to take such step. The 1995 Act is designed in such a way that a mutually aided cooperative has to always have an elected board accountable to its general body.

7. YSR almost succeeded in creating an image for himself as a messiah of all people – poor and rich, illiterate and literate, weak and strong, powerless and powerful, backward and forward, etc. Under the guise of being a messiah, he was, in fact, building an empire for himself and his only son, Jagan. He had a coterie of selected rich, clever and influential persons who were being helped, left and right, by him by transfer of public resources – material and financial – to them. It was not in his nature to tolerate the existence of any individual or institution that was not amenable to him. The autonomous functioning of dairy cooperatives, particularly district dairy unions, was not to his liking.

8. On 2nd February 2006, the YSR Government amended the 1995 Act. The 2006 Amendment stated:

(a) All dairy cooperatives that were working as on that day under the 1995 Act would stand transferred to the 1964 Act;

(b) All dairy cooperatives would be treated as if they have always been under the 1964 Act;

(c) All dairy cooperatives would be treated as if they never existed under the 1995 Act; and

(c) Henceforth, no dairy cooperative would be registered under the 1995 Act.

9. The same night, by executive orders, the Government appointed District Collectors as persons-in-charge (one may say “administrators” or “special officers”) of all eight district dairy unions. In turn, the District Collectors appointed thousands of small and big government employees as persons-in-charge of more than 3500 village dairy societies, in the place of elected boards. The same night, all these government employees assumed charge of their additional assignments. The YSR Government thought that it was a clever step forward to get the Congress Party members into the boards of dairy cooperatives.

10. When dairy cooperatives and Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) filed writ petitions in the High Court challenging the constitutional validity of the 2006 Amendment Act and statutory validity of appointment of persons-in-charge, the High Court suspended the executive orders, as an interim relief. In effect, the elected boards continued to be in office.

11. After prolonged hearings, on and off, spread over 15 months, on 1st May 2007, the High Court declared all provisions of the 2006 Amendment Act as violative of Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 19(1)(c) (right to form associations) of the Constitution. Thus, the dairy cooperatives continued to function under the 1995 Act, with their own elected boards. YSR was not an ordinary mortal; he was a messiah. The State Government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court with a plea to quash the judgment of the High Court.

12. The process of admitting, hearing and disposing the Government appeal is a separate story in itself. One may have to write a separate note on that process. For the present, let us confine to the final result. On 2nd September 2011, the Supreme Court delivered the judgment. The Supreme Court said that it found no reason to intervene in the judgment of the High Court, which had declared all provisions of the 2006 Amendment Act as unconstitutional. The essence of the Supreme Court’s judgment would be found in the reasons it gave in support of its conclusion.

13. For the first time since 26th January 1950, Republic Day, the day from which the Constitution of India came into force, the Supreme Court emphatically speaks of voluntary association, principles of cooperation, voluntary action, free will, etc in respect of cooperatives. The Supreme Court judgment states:

(a) The cooperative, by its very nature, is a form of voluntary association where individuals unite for mutual benefit in the production and distribution of wealth upon the principles of equity, reason and common good. Therefore, the basic purpose of forming a cooperative remains to promote the economic interest of its members in accordance with the well-recognised Principles of Cooperation.

(b) Members of an association have the right to be associated only with those whom they consider eligible to be admitted and have right to deny admission to those with whom they do not want to be associated.

(c) The right to form an association will be infringed by forced inclusion of persons unwanted by the incumbent members of an association. Right to associate is for enjoying in expressive activities. The constitutional right to freely associate with others encompasses associational ties designed to further the social, legal and economic benefits of the members of the association.

(d) By statutory interventions, the State is not permitted to change the fundamental character of the association or alter the composition of the association itself. Any significant encroachment upon associational freedom cannot be justified based on any interest of the Government.

(e) However, when an association is registered under a statute, the provisions of that statute govern it. In case the association has an option/choice to be registered under a particular statute, if there are more than one statutes operating in the field, the State cannot force the association to get itself registered under a statute for which the association has not applied.

(f) The very existence of a Cooperative is based on voluntary action of its members. Once a cooperative is formed and its members voluntarily take a decision to get it registered under the X Act, the registration authority may reject the application for registration if conditions prescribed under the X Act are not fulfilled. The registration authority does not have a right to register the said applicant-cooperative under the Y Act. Even an authority, which is superior to the registering authority, is not competent to pass an order that the applicant-cooperative would be registered under the Y Act. Such an order, if passed, would be in violation of the first Principle of Cooperation, which states that its members should voluntarily approve every action of a Cooperative. Introducing an element of compulsion would violate Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. It is not permissible under the Constitution or any law to do something indirectly, if it is not permissible to be done directly.

(g) The Legislature has a right to amend the 1995 Act or repeal the same. Even, for the sake of an argument, if it were considered that the Legislature was competent to exclude the Dairy Cooperatives from the operation of the 1995 Act and such an Act was valid i.e. not being violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, etc, the question would arise as to whether the Legislature could force a Cooperative registered under the 1995 Act to work under the 1964 Act. Importing the fiction to the extent that the Cooperatives registered under the 1995 Act could be deemed to have been registered under the 1964 Act would be tantamount to forcing the members of the Cooperative to act under compulsion/direction of the State rather than on their free will. Such a provision would be violative of the very first basic Principle of Cooperation, which states that its members should voluntarily approve every action of a Cooperative. More so, the Act would be vitiated not only by non-application of mind but also by irrelevant and extraneous considerations.

14. It is time for cooperatives and their members, whether working in the regime of the old regressive cooperative law or in the regime of the new liberal cooperative law, to identify provisions in the said laws. which militate against the Concept and Principles of Cooperation, and advocate for their deletion and/or modification both in the Legislature and in the Judiciary.

15. During my active professional career in the field of cooperation, voluntarism and local governance, I have had the opportunity to go through most of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Supreme Court of India judgments that dealt with the subject of cooperation. Almost none have touched the widely accepted definition of cooperative and/or the principles of cooperation. It means that the contesting parties before the courts did not feel the necessity to bring them to the notice of the courts. It is strange that the courts have been adjudicating the disputes relating cooperatives without giving a serious thought to the definition of cooperative and/or the principles of cooperation.

16. In my view, cooperatives, labour unions, societies, associations, public trusts, etc, whether registered or unregistered, are the most appropriate and potent instruments in the hands of the powerless and the dispossessed to protect and promote their legitimate interests through collective action.

17. It will, certainly, be rude on my part to say that the communication ends here. I will be happy to hear from you. If you are interested in the full text of this note, please let me know. I will respond at the earliest.

All the best,

Rama Reddy of Hyderabad
(formerly of Cooperative Development Foundation, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh)

Mohan Kanda suggests ‘MSP should cover cost of production at least’

Mohan Kanda committee which looked into the crop holiday crisis in AP apart from other things suggested that government should ensure that MSP announced by Govt. of India should cover the cost of production and if there is a gap, state government should bear the gap. According state govt reports it costs Rs. 1270/q for common varieites and Rs. 1335/q for A grade. Accordingly AP govt asked the Centre to fix MSP at Rs. 1905/q and Rs. 2033/q respectively. But the centre has announced the MSPs only as Rs. 1030 and Rs. 1080/q respectively. If state accepts the Mohan Kanda’s recommomendations, even if they dont pay the price they recommended, at least should cover the cost of production. In which case the prices would be Rs. 1270/q for common varieites and Rs. 1335/q for A grade. This would require about Rs. 55,000 cr additionally as the govt may have to give about Rs. 275/q as bonus. Still it would only cover the costs and wont leave any profit for the farmers. Is it not the time to rethink the whole pricing policy in agriculture? why farmers should be put to loss?

Documenting Good Agricultural Practices – Experiences; Referrals

Solution Exchange for the Food and Nutrition Security Community

Query Update
From G. Nirmala, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad

Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) is intend to bring in “environmental, economic and social sustainability” and result in “safe and quality food and non-food agricultural products”, seems to be challenging task in the present scenario in India unless we understand the practices the farmers are comfortable to adopt. With diverse ethno-cultural practices, ever-increasing demand for food, remarkable poverty amongst the smallholder farmers, and ever-decreasing manual labour for agriculture, there is need to review the global principles of GAP in Indian context. The responses to the query highlighted on the traditional practices that are collection of principles resulting in safe and healthy food while taking into account economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Examples of GAP Practices that have ensured Food Safety Measures and Localization in Small Farms EEE
· Development Research Communication and Services Centre have developed number of natural resource management models for integrated and diversified farming. This is based on the principle that waste from one operation or subsystem can be used as input for other subsystems/enterprises can reduce the risks as well as costs of production; improve soil fertility, provide balance nutrition and ensure enhanced holistic yields as well as income.
· In Andhra Pradesh, Non Pesticidal Management (NPM) proved effective as an ‘ecological approach to pest management using knowledge and skill based practices to prevent insects from reaching damaging stages.
· In Assam, goat dung is sprayed on vegetable field helps in providing good nutrition to soil and prevents crops from pests.
· The practice to keep dairy cattle on raised floor bamboo houses about 5-6 feet above ground helps keeping animal healthy
· Raised bamboo floor that keeps broiler chicken clean, and less incidence of diseases and flies and droppings channelized to vegetable farm.
· Rural Resource and Training Centre (RRTC), Meghalaya has PBC pipes fitted on every house in such a manner that it collects rain water and leads to an underground reservoir used for various purposes. Dairy farm-Gobar gas plant-vermicompost unit where dung produced is channelized to a pit of Gobar gas system almost automatically. Slurry produced is then conveyed to the shed of vermicompost almost automatically. Thus, waste of one unit become input for other unit and they save labour and energy in this manner.
· Apatani fish rich culture in Arunachal Pradesh is an integrated livestock cum fish farming in Assam

GAP in reducing Environmental Costs and improving Yield Parameters EEEEE
A progressive farmers Traditional Knowledge notes sowing activity needs to be done only on ‘No Moon’ day and this would not only give good crop but there will not be any pests; Sub Soil increases the yield by 50% and also the Nutrient Value of the Produce; Seed Spacing reduces the Seed/Acre to 40% without affecting the yield.

Economic Benefits of NPM
Ecological Benefits of NPM
· Lower cost of production & substantial statewide savings
· Yield maintained or increased
· Higher household income
· Lower Debt
· Higher cropping intensity
· Lower risk perception and higher investment in agriculture
· Business innovation and new livelihood opportunities
· Better soil health, water conservation
· Conservation of agro-biodiversity
· Fewer pesticide related health problems
· Smaller carbon footprint as a result of reduced use and production of inorganic fertilisers

References of Organizations involved in Implementation of GAPEEE
Bureau of Indian Standards as well as Quality Council of India have systematically developed GAP documents for Indian Conditions
· JAIN GAP Standard: Jain Irrigation Systems Limited has evolved an adaptation of GAP standard for application to their contract farming operations. http://www.globalgap.org/cms/upload/Resources/Presentations/London/101008_Roberts_Brad_JAINGAP_GLOBALGAP_Summit_London.pdf) (Size:589 KB)
· GAP for Medicinal Plants: National Medicinal Plants Board in collaboration with WHO produced a compendium of medicinal plants GAP. (http://whoindia.org/LinkFiles/Traditional_Medicine_GAP_book.pdf) (Size: 2.12 MB)
· Traditional Agricultural Practices Compilation by SARRA – compiles the ecologically sound cultivation practices for major crops http://www.angoc.org/portal/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/06/traditional-practices-in-agriculture/Traditional-Practices-in-Agriculture-FULL.pdf
· Water Management: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) produced a compilation of good agriculture water management practices http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/csd/csd13/documents/bground_3.pdf
· Post Harvest Technologies: Post Harvest Foundation based in the USA produced a good assessment of post harvest technology practices adopted by farmers in the SSA and in India. (http://www.postharvest.org/Slide_Deck_WFLO_APTProject2010.pdf) (Size: 2.8 MB)
· Sustainable Agri Practices has two compendiums of successful practices and approaches with interesting cases from India. (http://www.sustainet.org/en/information-office.htm; http://www.sustainet.org/download/sustainet_publication_india_part1.pdf) (Size: 1.19 MB)
· ICT Applications in capturing GAP: Farmers produced interesting GAP content based on the experiences of various agriculture development CBO/NGOs. (http://www.farmerp.com/it-in-agri.html)
· Good agriculture and collection practices of medicinal plants http://coin.fao.org/cms/world/india/en/Publications/NMTPF.html

Contributions received with thanks from
Suman KA, Change Planet Partners Climate Innovation Foundation, Hyderabad; Shambhu Ghatak, Inclusive Media for Change, New Delhi; K V Peter, World Noni Research Foundations, Chennai; DSK Rao, Gyantech Information Systems (P)Limited, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh; Ramesh V Bhat, Department of Food and Drug, Ministry of Health, Lao PDR; Anshuman Das, Development Research Communication & Services Centre, Kolkata; Pathak RK, Manas Rural Development Institute, Thane, Maharashtra; Raj Ganguly, Independent Consultant, New Delhi; GV Ramanjaneyulu, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh; Pitam Chandra, Indian Council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi; Monjul Islam, FARMER (Fellowship for Agri-Resource Management and Entrepreneurship Research), Guwahati, Assam