The prime objective of the development initiatives in Bangladesh is poverty reduction. For decade’s development activists, scholars, political elite are putting forward various approach and development strategies to address the issue of poverty reduction. Bangladesh government has prepared the PRSP. The poverty reduction endeavor of Bangladesh through Micro credit has received world recognition through the receive of Nobel prize by Dr Yunus and Grameen Bank.
However, Uttaran, perceive that given the nature of rural economy, livelihood pattern and socio-economic & power structure poverty reduction in Bangladesh can not be addressed through mere micro-credit. Uttaran through its field level experience assume that differential control and access to resources is the primary determinant of social and material well being. Therefore, ensuring poor people’s access to resources through transfer of assets would able to reduce rural poverty and number of poor.
Land is the most important resource of the rural Bangladesh. Land is not only a resource contributing to agricultural subsistence but also the basis for negotiating access to additional resources such as irrigation facilities, rural credit and grant. Land increases the status of rural families.
At the same time it is an important reality of Bangladesh is that the state owns 5 million acres of land approximately which is known as Khasland. The state also controls 2.1 million acres of lands which is designated as vested property. Further, 1 million acres of land remain abandon that still not brought under the control of the state.
If the price of 1 acres of land kept in an average 1.25 lac taka than the total price of khasland is 62500 corers taka. Moreover, the total number of landless household in Bangladesh is 1 corer and following the policy of Bangladesh if these lands are distributed among the landless household then each of the household at least can have 0.5 acres of land. This means a landless household would not only receive in an average land worth of 75000 taka but also would acquire the ability to generate regular income and access to various additional resources. However, till now only 10% landless people have received land.
Therefore, Uttaran carrying out the asset transfer program not only to eradicate the poverty but also to empower the destitute and disadvantage people of Bangladesh.
Uttaran and Land transfer program
Uttaran begins its land transfer program in 1988 being the member of District land Reforms Implementation task force of Bangladesh Government. During this period Uttaran participated in the process of distribution of 2 thousands acres of land in Tala Upazila. During fist half of 1990s progress in Land settlement could not be made as the land settlement process were mostly remain suspended by the government.
In 1998 land program of Uttaran received new pace when an influential vested interest group on 10 May attempted to evacuate landless people of Baburabad of Debhata from the area where they were residing for decades. Several hundrends of houses were burned down and hundreds of landless people were injured. Uttaran helped the landless people of the area to be organized and defend themselves. Subsequently, Jayida a landless activist got killed when the police and terrorists opened fire on the landless people. The land grabbers also filled 32 false cases against the landless people of the area. Uttaran provide legal, moral and medical support to these destitute people. As the greater civil society came forward in support of landless people entire Satkhira become stand still as to the movement carried out by the landless people. Finally, after a long legal and street battle, government started to provide land settlement to the landless. Uttaran facilitates the process.
In the meanwhile, Through though Uttaran-Manusher Jonno Foundation project a total of 1801.8 acres for 2220 families (as permanent settlement) and 5802.97 acres for 7885 families (as temporary settlement or DCR) recovered as of January, 2010. The project name is “Asserting Popular Access and Rights to Resources in Southwest Bangladesh (APAR). The project area includes 9 upazilas of Satkhira and Khulna districts. Of them, 6 of Satkhira district viz. Tala, Satkhira sadar, Kaligonj, Debhata, Shyamnagar and Assasuni and rest 3 of Khulna district viz. Batiaghata, Dumuria and Paikgacha.
Impediments in the way of providing khasland to Landless people
- Lack of identification of Khasland
- Lack of identification of landless people
- Law are not effective
o Various laws (1950, 1972, and 1984) specified land ceiling for a family, however no specific time frame has been mentioned regarding the recovery of surplus land.
o Institutions those formed to identify and distribute khasland are not effective
§ As the Committee are formed in the Upazila level, grassroots people have limited access to the committee
§ The Composition of the committee restricts its function. Most of the members are government officials being not local lacks interest to make the committee functional. Further, those member who are from the area are not responsible to the people but to the district and central administrations as they are nominated by them.
o Policy lacks direction to provide Lands that are under forest department, BWDB, Railway to landless
o Delay in changing the category/classification of land into agriculture khasland from other land categories.
o The Shrimp Cultivation Policy restricts poor to access Khas agriculture land. The policy provides the Shrimp farmers the rights to get the lease of the land cheap price.
o Lack of access of poor people to information regarding khasland
o Corruption among the government officials
o Poor people lack financial capacity in getting lease and permanent settlement.
o Poor people lack capacity to fight over right of the land in the court.
Besides these problems it has been observed that even those landless people who receive khasland but fails to retain land as they lack ability to make the land productive and earn.
Tala Model: A Way Forward
Under the APAR project, Uttaran develops a model that is helping to overcome the above mentioned problems and ensure the landless people’s access to Khasland.
After a series of discussions, both formal and informal between Uttaran on the one hand and Satkhira district administration including land administration led by DC and Tala upozila administration also including land administration led by UNO in an extraordinary meeting of the Tala Upozila Kreeshi Khasjomi Bandobasto O Byabosthapona Committee was held on 11th August ’05. Chaired by the UNO and attended by Uttaran representatives on special invitation, it was decided that the state’s khasland settlement program to begin with, in Tala upozila from now on would be implemented with a package of both financial and technical assistance from Uttaran on a pilot basis.
Establishment of three tier Khasland distribution committees
Upozila administration including land administration, and Uttaran, Union Bhumiheen Bachai Committees (UBBCs) and Ward Bhumiheen Bachai Committees (WBBCs) simultaneously are formed across the upozila apart from the Upazila Committee.
The UBBC with the UP chairman as the ex-officio convener comprises 23 members. They are all 12 UP members including 3 females, 1 freedom fighter, 1 school or college teacher, 1 BRDB-BSS member, 1 NGO representative, and 6 political party representatives.
The WBBC with the ward UP member as the ex-officio convener and the female UP member as the advisor comprises 6 members. They are the closest contender to the seating UP member (at the last election), 1 primary or high schoolteacher, 1 imam and 1 purohit (ie respectively Muslim and Hindu religious leaders).
The upozila khasland committee and Uttaran jointly organized general meeting of all UBBCs and WBBCs for their practical orientation on the program implementation and management plan followed by orientation workshops with both UBBCs and WBBCs.
Identification of Landless people
The upozila administration and Uttaran jointly prepared an operation manual for selection the landless households of Tala upozila and got it published in print by the end of August ’05.
- Ward Bhumiheen Bachai Committees (WBBCs) distribute application form among people residing within the ward and ask the people to fill up the form and submit to the WBBC if they are landless
- A Landless peoples list is prepared based on filled up application forms by the WBBC
- WBBCs fix a date for cross check the list in a public meeting
- People of the Ward are invited through Miking, and Drum bits to attain the meeting by the WBBC
- Applicants who have submitted form to WBBCs are asked to ensure physical presence in the mentioned meeting
- In the public meeting the list is finalized by the WBBC
- The Landless list is sent to Union Bhumiheen Bachai Committees (UBBCs)
- UBBC sample basis cross check the list as well verify complains if they receive
- UBBC publish the list and hang it various public place and address complains if they receive
- UBBC then approve the list and forward it to the upozila khasland committee which is formed by the government for final approval
The selection process for distribution of Khasland
The Committees initially receive prescribed application forms in print from Uttaran for khaslands and distribute among the landless people through the hierarchy of UBBCs and WBBCs. The landless people are invited to apply for khasland using the prescribed application forms through a massive publicity campaign. This involved the Uttaran partners apart from the key actors viz Uttaran itself, upozila administration including land administration, UPs and UBBCs, WBBCs and local cultural troupes.
The campaign media-methods and materials used are miking, dhera (a sort of indigenous drum) trumpeting, popular theatre and folk-song shows, posters and banners etc. The UBBCs collects the application forms completed often with assistance from the project-staffs with both Uttaran and Uttaran-partners, through the WBBCs.
Previously well-publicized public scrutiny of the completed application forms was accomplished simultaneously at each of all the 9 WBBCs under the UBBC at a given date and on a given time—a public scrutiny that took place in presence of the wider community people attending including the applicants themselves often with their families. The UBBC in turn at its level got the primarily scrutinized applications from the WBBCs further scrutinized and short-listed and sent them up to the upozila khasland committee for finalization. The upozila khasland committee in turn at its level prepared a draft list of the selected eligible applicants for each of the 12 UBBCs and sent it down to them for its public information and correction. It finalized the lists for all unions after making necessary changes and corrections as suggested by the UBBCs and sent them to all offices concerned both at upozila and union levels i.e. UNO , AC Land, UP and union land office. Subsequently these lists are duly followed in distribution and settlement of khaslands.
As the selection process is transparent and participatory one it helps in restricting corruption regarding distribution of khasland. A total of 17291 landless people have been identified by following the process.
Identification of Khasland
- WBBC, UBBC, UP, UKC ensure the publication of already identified various categories of Khasland by the Union Tasil (land) Office, and Upazila AC Land Office and hang it in various public place. Uttaran facilitate the process
- WBBC and UBBC collect field level information regarding Published Khasland list for cross check and suggest UKC, Union Tasil office to include or exclude khasland from the list.
- UKC through field visit cross check the claims of the WBBC and UBBC.
- After cross check UKC recommend the Upazila AC Land Office to revise the list. However, it is important to note that the list is not yet completed
- Once the list is completed and finalist it will be published and distributed among government, NGOs and relevant people
Under the model a fund under the name of Bhumi Tahabil is created to provide financial support to the landless people as the expenditure to have temporary and permanent settlement of land. For temporary lease for acre of land 2000 taka as interest free loan while for permanent settlement 5000 taka is provided to a family.
Access to information and restricting the corrupt practices
The tala model promotes a collaborative approach between community, NGO and Administration. The involvement of NGO, Uttaran and local administration helps in restricting the corrupt practices primarily the Taseldar office which ultimately helps in accessing information about the khasland.
The Tala model as it is called so far mainly relates to identification and selection of the genuinely landless households, who alone are eligible for khaslands, and not to the other two vital areas of settlement of khasland eg identification and recovery of khaslands.
Inasmuch as the identification and selection of the landless households is concerned the Tala model has been an encouraging success. This success is very much acclaimed by the public officials at upozila and district levels, CS groups, newspaper reporters, and the wider community people including project-participants. The public officials meanwhile already strongly have recommended it to be replicated in the rest of the upozilas across the southwest region and elsewhere for better implementation and management of the khasland settlement program.