Adoor Prakash reveals plan on eve of declaring Kannur ‘Zero Landless’ district.
The State government is planning to bring in legislation to protect the land distributed to beneficiaries under the “Zero Landless” programme and amend the revenue laws to allow philanthropists to donate land for distribution under the programme.
The prestigious programme of the United Democratic Front was flagged off by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in October.
In an interview to The Hindu on the eve of declaring Kannur the first “Zero Landless” district in the country, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash said the proposed law was intended to prevent alienation of the distributed land for 25 years.
The amendments were planned to remove practical difficulties in donating land for the programme. The government was planning to encourage land donation on the lines of the Bhoodan movement of Vinoba Bhave.
The “Zero Landless” programme envisages distribution of three cents of land each to 2,43,928 families identified across the State. In the first phase, one lakh families will get land. The Revenue authorities have been able to identify land for distribution to 39,200.
Mr. Prakash said it would be possible to distribute land to the entire lot of applicants in Kannur and Kasaragod districts. There were 11,100 applicants in Kannur and 15,600 in Kasaragod. The move was to distribute land to 2,000 people first.
The Minister said land declared Poramboke and excess under the Land Ceiling Act and “bottled land” under revenue recovery proceedings would be utilised for redistribution within the ambitious deadline of August 2015. In view of the large number of applications, the government had decided to prioritise land distribution, which would be managed by a piece of software developed for the purpose. Priority would be given to the destitute, cancer patients, persons with 60 per cent or more disability and widows.
His extensive tours across the districts in connection with land identification were an eye-opener. “I could gauge the depth of the problem of landlessness in a State where landholders were seeking to short-circuit the land ceiling laws on one side and another set of people were being denied the right to own a piece of land,” he said.
One of the major challenges he and Revenue Department officials faced was in locating land in Idukki district with a dubious history of land records. The second challenge was to get the local bodies to surrender their claims on prime land that had been identified for distribution to the landless.
To overcome this problem, the Revenue Department formulated a scheme under which the local bodies would be given the prime land if they were to hand over as compensation liveable plots to the extent of three times the land it had identified for redistribution. Similarly, there were several corporate entities which were reluctant to surrender excess land in their possession. The government would formulate a scheme to get the land from them.
The Minister said he was keen on the amendments to the revenue laws to encourage people to donate land. The United Democratic Front would discuss the issue in detail prior to taking a political decision.
Mr. Prakash admitted that the “Zero landless” programme had a political intent, since it had come to be appreciated as an important social security measure even at the national level. “But the Revenue Department has evolved norms to ensure fair play in distributing land to the most deserving sections,” he said.
He was optimistic about identifying more land for distribution, though there was pressure on land availability for development.