Land reforms only solution to Bihar caste wars

DH News Service
BHOPAL, May 17

Land reforms, patterned on the ''West Bengal model", are the only permanent solution to the spate of attacks, murders and arson involving scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in various parts of Bihar, says the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

A panel, appointed by the commission to probe the root cause of the frequent massacres and attacks by organised gangs of various caste groups in Bihar, has concluded that ''inadequacies of the land tenancy laws and their ineffective implementation" was responsible for the phenomenon. The panel was constituted after the commission`s enquiry into the burning alive of seven Santhal tribals in the Purnea district of Bihar in December, 1998. It submitted its report recently.

Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday,the chairman of the commission, Mr. Dileep Singh Bhuria, said that Bihar had failed to distribute more than half of the 16.64 lakh acres of land received as "Bhoodan". Similarly, of the 3.87 lakh acres acquired as surplus, barely 67,000 acres had actually given to the tillers, the rest either remaining undistributed or under litigation in revenue courts.

The land records were hopelessly out of date with, to quote just one instance, the last updating of the record of rights in Purnea district having taken place in 1958. Emphasising the lopsided land ownership pattern in Bihar, the commission report said that around 47 per cent of the arable land was owned by barely 8 per cent of the households. The remaining 52 per cent was shared by 92 per cent of the households. As against this, in West Bengal, thanks to vigorous land reforms, marginal farmers owned 41 per cent of the land.''"There is a definite co-relation between the security of tenure , increase in agriculture productivity and decline in poverty", the report said.

The commission has given detailed recommendations as to the modalities of the reforms. It has urged for deletion of the ''Bihar Tenancy Act" and its replacement by a legislation patterned on the West Bengal law.

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