Government needs to devise policy to bring land reforms
By: Nawaz Khuhro
KARACHI: The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), Tanveer Arif, on Sunday stressed the need to carry out land reforms, end land grabbing and resolve environmental issues facing farmers in the country, so that landless peasants working under bad conditions could be supported for earning livelihood.
“The farmers in rural areas are living under extreme poverty due to unjustified crop share being given to them by landlords. The peasants are facing malnutrition and severe economic constraints due to this injustice, which needs to be ended,” he said while talking to Daily Times Karachi on telephone.
Tanveer informed that they are organising a workshop in Islamabad from 22nd to 23rd January 2013, under the banner of SCOPE and National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan (NPCP), which is aimed at sensitising media representatives about land rights, land reforms, land grabbing and environment degradation so that they could raise these issues in media in order to help ensure food security, raise employment and safeguard peasants rights. He said that landlords had vast land areas, which should be redistributed among landless peasants as was done in the past. Those farmers, who have been growing crops on the lands for years, should be given ownership rights on that land, while land grabbing must also be halted by making legislation in the assemblies.
He opposed the government policy to lease out lands to Gulf countries because of the fact that this act would harm farming community and also cause water scarcity.
The SCOPE CEO said that the government should come out with concrete measures and provide subsidies on wheat and other crops so that food inflation could be reduced and farmers supported.
Programme Manager SCOPE Mahjabeen Khan told this scribe that there was dire need to bring land reforms in the country, and media could play best role in this regard. She said that the government needed to devise a land reforms policy by taking all stakeholders on board. “The corporate agriculture introduced during Musharraf government should be brought to an end for the betterment of the peasants,” she stressed. She said that former Musharraf regime leased out lands to Gulf countries in Sindh and Balochistan, which was not in the interest of the country. This will deprive local people of land rights, she asserted. There is need to boost food security and alleviate poverty from the country by supporting peasants.
She said that NGOs could alone not raise issues at government level, as it is the media that could highlight issues in the best way and help resolve the same.
Mahjabeen said that SCOPE was making hectic efforts to bring land reforms in the country and sensitising all stakeholders to raise this issue at the government level.
Workshop: SCOPE and NPCP at a joint workshop to be held on January 22-23 will raise land rights, agrarian reforms and food security issues. The workshops will seek to boost media coverage about the issues and challenges of land reforms and land rights in Pakistan, importance of land reforms and land rights for sustainable land management, food security, increased farm productivity, poverty alleviation and overall socio-economic uplift of the country and build a community of journalists writing regularly about land reforms and rights to place it on top political agenda. The media workshop is being held in collaboration with Oxfam International, Land Watch Asia, International Land Coalition and National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan-Pakistan Kisan Sangat (NPCP-PKS).
The land reforms are considered critical for equality, employment, food security and empowerment of poor peasants and poverty alleviation. Increasingly equitable access to land is central to alleviating rural poverty and overall economic development.
Unhampered access to land is a key to human development in rural areas as peasants need access to farm land in order to survive. Because, each of them requires adequate piece of land to cultivate and feed their families. Besides, They need secure property rights to ensure a long-term investment in land improvements to boost its yield.
Land reforms are treated with a view of human rights issue. Land reform, also called agrarian reforms, are defined as re-distribution of land amongst landless peasants by expropriating land from large land owners. More clearly, land reform means breaking up large land holdings and thereby changing the pattern of ownership of land in the country to prevent concentration of land – and ultimately wealth – in a select few hands.
Nonetheless, revision or reform of a country’s land laws are an intensely political process, as reforming land policies serves to change relationships within and between communities, as well as between communities and the state. Thus even small-scale land reforms and legal modifications may happen to be subject to intense debate or conflict. For the land reforms, it actually requires strong political will and determination of the governments to formulate appropriate laws and ensure their implementation.
Pakistan carried out unproductive land reforms in 1959, 1972 and 1977 since they lacked sincerity, proper planning and political will.
Rather than distributing secured lands to the landless cultivators (peasants), there have been a number of instances of political victimization and distribution of lands to Army and police officers.