News from Pakistan
Land Distribution and Maldistribution
Corruption Rife in Pakistan Land System
DURING the prime minister's recent visit to Sukkur where he distributed land ownership documents to landless haris, cases of corruption in the process of allotment were brought to his notice. Our Sukkur Correspondent reports that some 200 allottees who had received proprietary rights documents from the prime minister at an open kutchery on an earlier occasion are still running from pillar to post trying to get possession of the land but have not met with any success yet. As against this, an equal number of the so-called landless peasants belonging to the group of a powerful personality of the area is said to have been allotted the same land and given possession of it.
According to law, allotment of land resumed under land reforms and other government land can be made only to the landless farmers of the village or its neighbourhood where the land is located. But what is said to be happening is that fake identity cards are being obtained by proteges of powerful persons on the basis of which allotments are claimed and received.
A further allegation is that allotments are obtained not so much for land as such, which may not become immediately productive being mostly barren requiring development efforts, as for entitlement to bank loans which may not have to be repaid because the identity documents are fake. The prime minister has ordered an inquiry into the scandal.
This may not be the solitary instance of the fraud and corruption going on in the name of land for the landless. Since the prime minister's national agenda speech on June 11 last year in which he had announced the resumption of land distribution, thousands of acres have been distributed but no follow-up surveys have been conducted to ascertain whether these have actually gone to deserving allottees. Most of the land being distributed is what had been resumed under various land reforms; it is generally barren and a procedure had been laid down for its disposal. Perhaps detecting some legal lacunae in the allotment procedure, the previous government had cancelled allotments made by Mian Nawaz Sharif during his first tenure. He has now promised an adequate legal cover for allotments but has not provided any yet.
Apart from removing legal flaws, the procedure of allotment has to be made fair and 'transparent' -- clear to everyone. What came to light at Sukkur is indicative of a wider malaise. It is believed that in many cases, the newly distributed lands, if these are actually cultivated, are controlled by the landlords, who manage to get these allotted to their proteges, instead by the deserving landless tillers.
Now that the government claims to have allotted 460,000 acres benefiting some 35,000 peasant families, it is time the impact of the process is assessed. A survey to ascertain whether the land is actually in the possession of the allottees is long overdue, and also whether the gains envisaged have really materialized and how much of the allotted land has been developed and cultivated and how much addition to farm production has taken place.
The distribution of about 1.2 million acres of land that had become available under land reforms, though a highly commendable step, may not achieve what the prime minister says he wishes to see - namely, bringing prosperity to the farming community, education and employment to their children and increased farm production. This is because of the fraud and corruption afflicting allotment and distribution of land. Landless tillers are mercilessly exploited by the landlords are legion. They can be freed and helped only if genuine land reforms are carried out and the resumed land is distributed fairly among the landless tillers and share-croppers.
For more information, visit www.dawn.com, the source of this article.
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