Seminar calls for bringing new land reforms

Karachi: Agriculturists, land reforms and development experts have said that despite three times land reforms introduced in the country at different times over last few decades, following governments have failed to implement the reforms in letter and spirit.

This has rather aggravated socioeconomic conditions of peasant communities in Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general. They said that while over 60 percent population of the country lives in rural areas of Pakistan and over 80 percent of the rural population earn their livelihood from agriculture. Despite contributing 21 percent in the national GDP, state of the peasant communities is extremely deplorable. And, there conditions cannot be improved without introducing land reforms in the country in their true spirit.

Federal government has showed its inability to work for implementation of land reforms in the country, arguing that after 18th constitutional amendment now it is entirely responsibility of the provincial governments to work for introduction and enforcement of land reforms in their respective provinces.

But lack of will on the part of the provincial government is delaying muchneeded push for the land reforms, the experts remarked. They expressed these views while addressing a seminar on ‘*Land Reforms in Pakistan: A Women Peasant Aspect*’ held here at a local hotel on June 30.

The seminar was organized by the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment SCOPE in collaboration with OXFAM International, Drynet International, Asia Land Coalition and Land Watch Asia.

Head of SCOPE and noted agricultural development expert, Tanveer Arif, said that Turkey, Somalia and Nepal have recognized land reforms and implemented them to empower their respective peasant communities and improvement in their socioeconomic status.

But in Pakistan the situation is entirely opposite. Neither land reforms have been implemented nor any viable programmes are launched for socioeconomic empowerment of the peasant communities. They have been completely left at the mercy of landlords and feudals to keep them exploited and underpaid.

“Its is a matter of anguish for a sane person that they the peasant communities grow crops but most of them sleep hungry or without consuming adequate food that is essential for healthy living,” Tanveer Arif griped.

He recalled that around 70,000 acres of 90 ,000 acres of land were given landless women farmers by the Sindh government under its ‘Land Distribution Programme For Landless Haris’*but lack of transparency and other assorted issues deprived them of taking desired results from the lands the farmers were allotted.

He urged the civil society organisations, media and political forces to join hands for enforcement of land reforms in their true sense in the country. For, this will not only empower small farmers, who cultivate 80 percent of the total arable land under country, but also will help tackle poverty in rural areas, improve socioeconomic conditions of the peasant communities.

Nazeer Qureshi of Sindh Aurat Tanzeem while speaking on women issues said that no society can progress without women empowerment and equal rights for women.

Bushra Bano from Khyber Paktunkhawa said that farmers women work all the day in the field like the male folks. She opened that if male behave in sensibly all problems pertaining to women could be solved immediately. Bushra, who also runs a school at her village, said that she is also educating the women in the area and empowering about their rights in family.

She suggested to form a network of women farmers at national level to address problems of the women. She advised the women to create courage among themselves to cope up with the problems as well as to solve the problems. Rida Baji from Balochistan while depicting the picture of women status in her area said that farmers’ conditions in the province are more than worse as even the feudals do not allow them to fetch sands from the land, how can they provide other rights to them. She disclosed that males are indulged in antiwomen customs and they treat them as sex commodity.

She suggested to change in the agriculture census and demanded of the government at seats be specifically be reserved for women farmers from the 33pc seats reserved fro the women in the national and provincial assemblies, besides the jobs be reserved fro the women in government departments.

Rida feared that women may left out of land rights at the time of land reforms as they have no any record of land, emphasizing that women be given major portion of land share. Highlighting the status for domestic women, she said that women are full time labourers but they were not being given status of laburers in formal sector. She demanded of the government to allow all facilities and social security for the women working at domestic labour in informal sector of labour.

Taj Marri, a leader of small growers` organization, said that networking amongst organisations working on land and agrarian reforms is critical for pushing forward the movements in a unified way for getting rights of the peasant communities recognized at all levels. He said that Sindh government rolled out land distribution programme for landless peasants, particularly women peasants. Although it was a good programme but there are a number of doubts about its transparency.

There are many women beneficiaries of this programme, whose lives turned troublesome. For, there were litigation issues associated with the lands distributed amongst them. Apart from it, such lands have failed to boost current farm productivity level of the province. Because, there were again issues of water logging, salinity issues in these lands and irrigation system was not provided to the beneficiaries of the programme.

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