Land represents a fundamental asset to the rural families in our country which comprise a substantial majority of the population. It is a primary source of income, security, and status. Land is one asset which almost every rural man or woman relates to. In the rural areas all the socio-economic privileges and deprivations revolve round land.
For the Government, since independence, land reforms have been a central issue of National Agenda. Recognizing how critical is ownership of land for a poor person, the Government has taken major steps to make sure that the poor get control over the lands by measures like abolition of zamindari and all intermediaries, tenancy reforms and ceiling on landholdings. Along with the above, such protective enactments which prohibited transfer of land assigned by the Government and also the alienation of tribal lands have been enacted with a view to prevent the poor from losing their lands.
These achievements notwithstanding, the lack of progress in the field implementation of the land reforms programme remain a matter of serious concern. Over a period of time, land reforms have taken a back seat and still remain an unfinished agenda. Suffering from other traits of poverty like lack of voice, bargaining power, access to knowledge etc. the poor also suffer from lack of access to secured title or possession over land. If they have one, they don’t have the other. If they have both, their land is locked in litigation, abetted by the pathetic position of Land Records, going through a hierarchy of courts at the end of which they are not sure of getting justice.
Lot of attention has been paid on computerization of land records by the government. Though the land record management system is a pre-condition for an effective land reform programme, unfortunately it occupied a prominent place of focus in the Five Year Plans overlooking the need for strengthening the hands of the poor by making them aware of, and realize their rights, leading to them having secured access to land. No doubt the attention which has been paid to the computerization of land records and digitization of cadastral survey maps is well deserved, but in the absence of an efficient enforcement of the rights guaranteed to the poor by several legislations it remains a superficial exercise, a sound body sans its soul.
A right does not become a right unless the person to whom it is guaranteed knows it and demands for its fulfillment. The great lacuna in the Land Administration has been that the poor were not made aware of their land rights that are upheld by various pro-poor legislations or if they were aware, the implementation mechanism was not fairly equipped to enforce them and in many cases was not accessible to them. A Land Right is the right to own, enjoy and dispose the land without any legal obstacle or obstruction. It is having absolute title over the land, complete with all required documents and also having the physical possession of the land. The protection of the rights of the poor should be the focus area for Land Administration.
When we look for ways to reverse the situation in favor of the poor so that they can gain access to land, credit, technology, markets and other productive services, it seems possible only when they also become active partners in the development of government policies and programmes affecting their livelihood. The key to success would be the strong organizations of the poor vociferously demanding the realization of their land rights the precursor to which is the awareness of their rights in the first place. Of course, this has to be backed up by equally strong political will of the state to take sides with the poor.
Recognizing land as a critical resource for the poor during the formulation of Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Project, the Land Component in Indira Kranthi Patham was sanctioned with an outlay of Rs.52.6 crore rupees.
The Land Component of IKP has been working in two directions. One is Land Purchase i.e. securing the poor access to productive lands through facilitating purchase of good quality irrigated lands and the other is Land Access- facilitating the poor, in convergence with the Revenue Department, to have control over their lands in terms of having secure title, handling their lands locked in courts/disputes, awareness as to the measures taken by the Government to protect the interests of the poor manifested in the form of pro-poor enactments etc.