By Dr. Sanjay Chaturvedi, LLB, PhD.
Land is the single most important ingredient for any development anywhere in the world. Unfortunately in India, land management system is in the state of gross mismanagement. Countries extensive agricultural land management system has collapsed. In India, we have 264 million hectares of land is fit for vegetation. Out of this, 142 million hectares is cultivated and managed by private land owners. The balance, 122 million hectares is uncultivated public lands, comprising of 67 million hectares under the forest department and 55 million hectares under various other public authorities, which include state revenue department, panchayats and other local bodies.
The publicly held lands are the most valuable source for forest products like timber, pulp, fuel wood, fodder etc., which are life line to the rural as well as urban population. In addition, these are the lands which are maintaining ecological balance in various geographical locations. The pathetic state of affairs in land management and utter confusion due to the out-dated laws and regulations are doing maximum damage to our national wealth. Courts are full of litigations over the lands and property. Even after centuries, the laws governing various aspects of land holding and use have not changed or modified to cope up with present day needs. In fact no coherent land management system exists at any level.
Land consolidation schemes decades back failed due to defective implementation. On August 8, 1994, the Union Urban Development ministry unveiled National Housing Policy, envisaging a major shift in its role that of builder to facilitator. The policy was aimed at reaching out to homeless and vulnerable sections of society. But in the absence of proper land management system and implementing agencies, hour the government can thunk of providing land is a moot question. The out dated system and corrupt officials are the biggest hurdle in the way of development of rural and far flung areas.
The developers of farm houses, who are going yeoman services in this sector, by bringing urban money for the development of rural areas, are not in a position to do so, because of the out-dated laws. For example even for hall acre farm plots the purchase has to be farmer. The farm house are mostly being developed in hilly areas or on wasteland. State forest department, which owns well over 67 million hectares of land, are totally incapable of managing the forest land resulting massive corruption and dwindling forest wealth. Government must wake up at least now and create better land management system.