Great Debate on Land Reforms Policy Begins
Kathmandu, April 4:
Modernization of the agriculture sector is a major feature of the upcoming land reforms policy, said Haribol Gajurel, chairman of the High Level Land Reform Commission (HLRC) in an interaction organized here on Saturday. The government formed the commission on December 10 last year to end all forms of disputes in land ownership and utility of land.
"We are focusing on increasing agricultural production through modernization," said Gajurel. Distributing land to the poor will not be sustainable without increasing productivity, he added. According to the 2001 data of the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 66 per cent of Nepalis depend on agriculture.
Land reforms is a high priority of the present government. The pro-socialist government has decided to end discriminations based on land ownership and use. Around 1 million Nepali families comprising 800,000 in villages and 200,000 in towns are landless.
HLRC is consulting experts, activists and political parties to set the framework of land reforms. " We are planning to suggest some points which could make the country self-sustained in food," said Gajurel. He pointed out that four major points --- application of scientific land ceiling measures, promotion of cooperative farming, land or compensation to tenants and promotion of agro-based industries ought to be included in the new policy.
According to Gajurel, HLRC is planning to suggest punishment for those who leave their land barren. However, the commission is still not clear what kind of land ownership it should suggest to the government. "HLRC is collecting data and opinion from people. We will come to a conclusion within three months," he said. "Perhaps, there will be three kinds of ownership --- government, cooperative and private. We are in dilemma whether to opt or cooperative or commune ownership."
Nepal Communist Party (UML) leader Keshav Badal favoured full ownership of the people. According to Badal, production cannot be increased without guaranteeing ownership of the people. "If the state cannot give a guarantee of land ownership, we will face the same situation that Vietnam did in the 1970s," he said. Over 75 per cent Vietnamese were in absolute poverty before 1986.
Vietnam had adopted a 'Doi Moi' policy in 1986 for modernizing its agriculture. Now, it is the world's second largest rice exporter. People below poverty line have dramatically decreased to 10 per cent in two decades and per capita has reached $1027 from $120 in 22 years. The communist country is gradually distributing land ownership rights to the citizens.
Deputy Speaker of the Constituent Assembly Purna Subedi said he wanted to see the land reforms policy based on the need of the people. "We have unique geo-physical and ethnic diversity, and so we have need that are different than those of others," she said. Nepali Congress leader Laxman Ghimire stressed that the new land reforms policy should benefit the lower classes of people and especially the labour groups.