NEW DELHI: An audacious land reform proposal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is caught in a bureaucratic quagmire as the Niti Aayog and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) are not on the same page.
A dissent note by the Niti Aayog has put the brakes on Modi’s proposal to give away unused land owned by government institutions and gram panchayats to 300 million landless farmers by 2018.
Just days before his farewell, Niti Aayog’s former vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya opposed the ground-breaking land reform move suggesting that agriculture was no more a viable option for a majority of farmers in the country. Sources said Panagariya’s note was drafted sometime in late August, when he was preparing to leave for Columbia University.
A senior official in the Niti Aayog confirmed that the policy body was not in agreement with the other stakeholders on the issue and the message had been conveyed to the PMO. The PMO, however, is keen on pushing the proposal.
“After several rounds of discussion, the files were recently sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice, seeking its opinion. The government wants to resolve the issue at the Central level before initiating a dialogue with state governments since the matter falls under the state list and the power to enact laws relating to land rests with the states and not Parliament,” the official said.
Documents reviewed by The New Indian Express revealed that a high-level committee was set up on June 17, 2016, on the PM’s directions, to examine land laws, including tenancy and land ceiling. The committee is working directly under the supervision of the PMO.
How did the proposal come about?
At a meeting with bureaucrats of various Central departments this year, Modi had asked how and why only 10% of India’s population controls 55% of the cultivable land, while 60% of the population owns a mere 5%. It was after this that a proposal was floated that the government machinery should identify and distribute unused land to the poor.