Saturday, May 19, 2012

Banking on land resource

Sopan Correspondent / New Delhi

Proposed Land Banks will work on the lines of commercial banks, where people can transact in land by depositing and withdrawing their pledged pieces of land.

With the approach to the 12th plan (2012-17) already known, the experts and economists are on their job to finalise the plan document, which is expected to be complete by May and then soon National development Council meeting would be convened to gets its nod. After which the fresh plan will kick start in the country.
The work on the plan is in progress with a heartening theme of "12th plan: More Inclusive Growth". Most of the working groups, which are writing the plan documents have started submitting their reports on the plan and one among them is on "Disadvantaged and Women farmers" which has submitted its final report. A copy of report is with SopanStep.
Premised on the fact that land has become a scarce commodity and has also proved to be mother of all scams in states after state, be it Bihar or Karnataka or Maharashtra or amy be any other state, one enquiry or other is underway and chief ministers are losing their job. Keeping this in mind the working group has suggested, which will become part of the 12th plan and would be implemented during the plan period, the Centre should establish "Public Land Banks (PLB)" at Panchayat level along with a host of reforms in dealing with the land issue in the country.
The Land Banks, as mooted in in the final report of the working group, will work on the lines of commercial banks, where people, in place of currency and financial instruments, would transact in land by depositing and withdrawing their pledged pieces of land.
According to the final report of the "working group" involved in preparing the 12th plan document, the PLB should be provided "initial seed capital from the Central and the state governments in a ratio of 80:20". But at the pilot stage for three years 100 percent of seed capital can be provided by the central government, it added.
The report, says: "To regulate and rationalise land demand and supply, it is strongly recommended that a PLB be created at the Panchayat level, in which land owners can 'deposit' land parcels that they do not want to cultivate."
The report further says that the "period of deposit" could range from "one season to several years" and the depositors would receive "an incentive payment per hectare" on deposit, varying by "period of deposit (analogous to current, savings and fixed bank deposits), with an additional amount being paid if the land gets leased out". It also mentions that the landowners would get "guaranteed protection and would be free to withdraw the land with due notice".
Later to earn value on the land deposited, it is proposed that the PLB will in turn would lease out the land in possession to specifically designated categories of disadvantaged cultivators, such as marginal farmers, women, dalits and tribals. "The land can be leased out either to individual entities or to groups," the report suggested.
Further elaborating the lending mechanism, the report said, "The borrowers or lessees would also get guaranteed lease, which will be fixed after assessing the land quality and in the form of a consolidated plot, wherever it is possible." It has also been suggested that borrowers can be provided "institutional financing support" and other help in terms of "access to quality inputs and markets.
The report, however, suggests debarring corporate, large farmers and those categories other than specified section of people from getting land from the PLB. "The measure is needed to be taken to prevent misuse of the liberalized tenancy provisions and for the purpose a clear and strict guidelines should be put in place for the PLB to operate," it added.
In another important move the report suggests that the government should comprehensively assess all land available with the state for potential distribution to disadvantaged and women farmer groups. The land so distributed could either be registered in the group's name, or it could be given to them under very long-term lease arrangement, it added.
It has also asked the government to institute a loan-cum-grant scheme with 50 percent given as a low interest loan and the rest 50 percent as a grant to help groups of landless or near landless women and men purchase land collectively. The purchased land can be registered in equal parts in each group member's name, but incentive should be given to group cultivation.
The working group, however, maintained that government should not purchase land to lease to disadvantageous and women farmers since that would hike up land prices in the areas of purchase. This will make the scheme unsustainable and adversely affect poor farmers, who want to buy land on their own.
Making the land transaction women centric, the 12th plan is expected to focus more on the rights of fairer sex in the family, as it proposes required certain changes in the proposed "Land Acquisition Bill-2011". It says that the consent clause for land transfers should require consent of by both spouses and not just heads of households. The compensation (land, cash, equity share etc.) should also be given equally to both spouses. To the extent possible, compensation should be land for land, since even farmers with resources often lack skills in setting up viable non-farm enterprises.
Interestingly, the report after studying the practices in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh has suggested that Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) fund should not only be used to create durable assets in villages rather it could be used for providing farm labour, which could reduce the labour cost to the group farmers. "Such efforts to integrate group farming with MGREGS need to be encouraged to leverage such schemes better for improving land resources and labour productivity for agriculture," it suggested.
The report has also suggested legalising tenancy system and should be regulated for specific categories, such as groups of disadvantaged and women farmers, to provide security to the tenant, whicle also protecting the landowner's rights. "A group approach to leasing in and use of land should be built into the system, as also financial and institutional support or such cultivation," it said, adding that sub-leasing within the group to individual members should be banned, as also leasing by corporate entities.
Apart from farming the 12th plan document has also talked about shelter to homeless in villages. It said, the government should further endeavour the 11th plan recommendation that all rural families without homesteads be allocated 10 cents of land in the women's name, which should be used for shelter and supplementary livelihoods.

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