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Rural households keep losing land
Participants at a roundtable ‘Rural Land Market in Bangladesh: A Situation Analysis’, organised by the Sustainable Access to Land Equality Project, which is being implemented by a consortium of Uttaran, Manusher Jonno Foundation and CARE Bangladesh with support from the land ministry, at The Daily Star Centre in the capital yesterday (December 03, 2014). Photo: Star

About 70 percent rural households lost land in last one decade mainly due to land grabbing, river erosion, fraudulence and government acquisition, according to a study on three upazilas.

The average lost land per household was 64.3 decimal, said Abul Barkat, chief adviser of the Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), a research organisation.

The professor of economics, however, said the study could not be taken as a nationally representative one.

The HDRC conducted the study among 424 households in Mohonpur in Rajshahi, Jamalpur Sadar in Jamalpur and Amtoli in Barguna.

Barkat said a considerable portion of the rural poor sell land in distress and the land administration plays a counterproductive role in the rural land market.

"The poor's participation in the rural land market does not necessarily imply that they are market gainers; rather subsistence pressure keeps them active in the land market," he said.

"Inefficient, insufficient and corrupt formal institutions are attributes of the rural land market, which cause transaction cost of land to go higher and remain crucial determinants behind sluggish market." Barkat shared the findings of the study -- Rural Land Market in Bangladesh -- at a roundtable at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka yesterday.

The study was conducted as part of the Sustainable Access to Land Equality (SALE) Project, which is being implemented by a consortium of Uttaran, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and CARE Bangladesh in support of the land ministry. 

The project, which receives financial support from the European Union, aims to promote digitalisation of land records and survey in Bangladesh.

The study shows that about 60 percent households in Bangladesh do not own any land. 

River erosion is responsible for 39.2 percent of land lost, while 27.3 percent households lost their land to land grabbers.

Relatives, especially paternal uncles, took 18.1 percent of land using trickery, said the study.

Around 4.3 percent of the land was lost to government acquisitions in the last 10 years.

The study showed 65 percent households did not receive proper services from land offices and were asked for bribe by government officials.

Prof Barkat said the laws have been enacted in a way that protects the interest of the land-grabbers and rent-seekers.

Barkat said the digitalisation of the land system could be a good thing. "But it is not a panacea for equitable access to land as it might take 20 years to complete."

Also speaking at the event, MM Akash, a professor of economics at Dhaka University, said laws have to be enacted to empower the state to ensure the optimum use of land.

He said a land bank could also be set up. "If people want to sell any piece of land it will sell it to the bank. The bank will sell the land to the people who can ensure optimum use."

"It will, however, depend on a committed leadership," said the economist, calling for handing over all khas land to rural households.

Akash said the land-use policy has to be effective so arable land could not be used for non-agricultural purpose.

Shamsul Huda, executive director of Association for Land Reform and Development, said the land market is hostile towards the poor, as the country has failed to establish a land administration and governance in the last four decades. 

Huda urged the government to pass the land-use act. "The draft has been prepared. We have given our opinions long time ago, but it is not being passed because of the pressure from the land grabbers."

Shahidul Islam, director of Uttaran, said the country's marginalised people were losing land every day, because of weaknesses in the laws and illegal land grabbing.

Shaheen Anam, executive director of MJF, said the country's poor and marginalised face harassment and violence due to the complicated land system and they were leading risky lives.

She said the draft land act had been prepared from the perspective of the rights of marginalised people and women a couple of years ago, but has not been made into law. "We have to campaign to have it passed." 

Julia Jacoby, project manager of governance and human rights of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said, "In our experience, digitalisation is not a solution, but a tool. And you can define digitalisation as scanning papers or as using intelligent technologies to record multiple data so state services can understand and control land resources in the country."

Pasi Rajander, operations manager of the Promote Access to Land in Bangladesh project of the land ministry, said the absence of a comprehensive national land policy was one of the major reasons that impede the realisation of an integrated and multi-sectoral approach to land use, which is a necessary requirement for putting in place a coherent land management and administration system in the country.

“What kind of information we are going to feed into the digitalisation of land records system is very important because by giving and putting in wrong information in it, we can even create greater mess."

Published: 12:01 am Thursday, December 04, 2014

Last modified: 3:33 am Thursday, December 04, 2014

 
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