BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha Government continues to seek quick-fix solutions for the agrarian crisis through temporary relief measures even as the farm sector deaths continue unabated in the State. While the Opposition bays for the Government’s blood over credit and compensation, the over-dependence on Central assistance seems to have aggravated the situation.
The solution, though, lies elsewhere. The Government is aware that the only way to address the situation is through a legislative roadmap but appears apprehensive since the reforms are revolutionary in nature.
Identification of sharecroppers and actual farmers should be the focus, official sources say. The Government had designed a method to address the plight of actual cultivators in Ganjam after the 2010 crop loss. However, the system to identify actual cultivators was not robust as they continue to be invisible. As a result, the compensation could reach only the land owners.
Sharecroppers both in coastal and western parts of the State have been bearing the brunt of the vagaries of nature in the shape of drought, cyclones and flood as they have not been recognised as farmers, neither in the revenue laws nor in the relief code. In the event of crop loss, the compensation meant for actual cultivators ends up reaching the land owners.
The problem lies in Odisha Debt Relief Act, 1980 which expressly links the concept of farmer to land ownership which leads to an understanding that a farmer must be a land owner. Similarly, in the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’’ Rights Act, 2001, the definition of farmer clearly points to land owner as farmer. The Government also recognises farmers as those who have land in Government records even if they are non-cultivators.
Experts say land ownership should be de-linked from the definition of farmer to enable sharecroppers to be treated as farmers or actual cultivators. The laws, rules and guidelines should be amended to define farmer as one who cultivates land, irrespective of whether the land is recorded in his/her name.
While the Government has already admitted that it has no system in place to identify sharecroppers, it follows the old practice of using panchayats and field level revenue functionaries to enumerate the sharecroppers.
Experts point out that as a long term measure, the Government could amend the Odisha Land Reforms Act to withdraw prohibition on agricultural tenancy in the State and make it lawful for a ryot to lease out land only for agricultural use and to any person residing within the jurisdiction of the tehsildar.
Similarly, leases created through reforms shall not be subject to automatic renewal and must entitle the tenant to assert any rights regarding possession and purchase of land. This would assure to land owners and make clear that the lease agreement or sharecropping agreement creates only a short-term relationship, says Sanjoy Patnaik, country director of Landesa which works in the sector of land reforms.