Tenancy reforms elusive, landless farmers suffer in Odisha

Sharecroppers in State continue to be deprived as tenancy liberalisation law of Government moves at a snail’s pace

BHUBANESWAR: Over 8.8 lakh farmers have registered online for paddy procurement which began this month but sharecroppers are left out of coverage as usual despite a high-pitched announcement by the State Government to bring them under tenancy reforms in agriculture sector after a spate of farmers’ suicide rocked Odisha.

With inadequate publicity and sensitisation at the ground level, sharecroppers continue to face the same fate as tenancy liberalisation law of the Government moves at a snail’s pace. Despite Government assertions on bringing about the law at the earliest, the legislation appears to have slowed down at last stages even as reports of sharecroppers resorting to distress sale post-demonetisation have appeared.
Sources in Revenue and Disaster Mitigation Department say certain issues about conflict resolution between landlords and tenants are yet to be adequately addressed in the new law which poses the question: How long before the tenancy Act comes into force? Though the Government appears to favour Gram Sabha as authority to resolve conflicts arising out of land leasing agreement which has been drafted as part of the tenancy reforms, the finer issues still remain in grey area.

To be placed before the State Assembly, the law has to be ratified by the State Cabinet, an exercise yet to be carried out. Before the law is enacted formally, the Government has a task at hand to identify the sharecroppers because the enumeration would ensure success of the tenancy reforms.
The process of registration of farmers during paddy procurement provides for a format in which sharecroppers can be recorded but without awareness and sensitisation targeted at sharecroppers as a stakeholder, only a half-baked exercise has been conducted as many districts had not updated land verification reports necessary in case of land whose details are not in Bhulekh database whereas bank account updates were also not available.

In a recent resolution, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Department had stated that many societies had registered less than 50 farmers, let alone sharecroppers. Interestingly, it also mentioned that 39,355 farmers have not submitted their consent letters which is key to the agreement between landlord and tenant.

State Director of Landesa Sibabrata Choudhury says removing restrictions on land leasing will help sharecroppers access Government provisions, improve their current condition and contribute greatly to overall farm sector growth. “Land leasing will encourage farmers, especially small and marginal farmers and landless to take up more land under cultivation. It will be beneficial both for the land owners and sharecroppers,’’ he added.
The law prescribes that owners will benefit contrary to their apprehensions regarding status of their ownership if land is formally given on lease.

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The New Indian Express