‘Land bank will inflate inequality’

Himalayan News Service

Biratnagar, April 23:

Squatters and land tenants, who remain deprived of land ownership rights, have demanded unconditional registration of their lands wherever they are settled, with due legal rights. They have also urged for a strict implementation of the land ceiling act. It is a government conspiracy to force helpless people by the very land on which they have been residing from the government, felt speakers at the programme held in Itahari yesterday. It will benefit nobody. The government is preparing to buy land from landlords with the fund that is coming as a loan from foreign countries. The government is then trying to put poor people in a trap with land loans from which they will never be able to set themselves free. The speakers warned that they would not give in to such a grand design. In the interaction programme, entitled, ‘Land Reforms and Land Bank’, which is being organized by the community self-reliance service centre and Abhiyan Nepal, the programme coordinator of the community self-reliance service centre, Jagat Deuja, while presenting his working paper on alternatives to the land bank, said that the land bank is not necessary for the time being.

Deuja, while stating that the concept of land banks will further widen the inequality in the society, added that the government should instead pursue other alternatives such as granting land to landless squatters, ploughmen, ex-Kamaiyas and land tenants. A separate law, with greater empathy for land tillers, is necessary, he felt. In the programme, head of social rights department of the ACTION AID Nepal, Khem Raj Upadhyaya underlined the fact that land banks will rather increase poverty. “Those who made land fertile and productive will now be asked to buy the same land. Can you justify it? What would the land banks give to the conflict-hit people who have no food to eat?” he questioned. A social worker, Kamala Khadka, urged the government to punlish the land-related data on how much land is there with the government. A squatter, Manukaya Devi Paswan, said, “We have no knowledge about the land bank. Irrespective of what bank comes, we cannot reap any benefit.” Binod Biswokarma, a landless farmer, wondered why he needed to buy the land, which his family has been using since the time of his grandfather. Another land tiller, Bishnu Koirala recounted that he has been dispossessed from the land by the landowner and urged to enforce the law only after understanding the reality.

President of the Abhiyan Nepal, Keshav Dahal asserted that the government should not stop the process of land reforms and it is unfortunate that those who are being aimed at, are not being given the opportunity to participate. The targeted group should be allowed to decide whether the land bank is necessary or not, he said. In the programme, treasurer of the land rights national forum Laxman Chaudhary, Sakuntala Subba of the UPKA Nepal, social workers Subash Gautam, Ganesh Ram, Radha Bhattarai expressed their views. Over 50 landless and land tillers participated in the programme.