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Land rights not ensured despite plethora of laws
[Source: The Daily Star: October 2, 2013;]

The country is now having 146 land related laws dealing with 20 types of land issues, but they do not ensure people’s right to land, speakers said at a roundtable yesterday. In addition, loopholes in those laws and the land management system are increasing land related cases, creating avenues for corruption and denying the marginalised people access to land, they told the programme at the capital’s Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED).

As many as 120 million people are victims of land disputes, while the money the opposing parties spend is double the country’s development budget, they revealed at the roundtable where the summary of a survey of the existing land related laws was shared. Aiming to ensure land rights of the marginalised people, Manusher Jonno Foundation launched the two-year survey in 2011 for drafting a new land law.

Eminent economist Prof Abul Barakat, who led the study, presented the summary of the 2,500-page report in the presence of prominent political leaders from major parties. MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam moderated the session, while Justice Abdur Rashid chaired it. The roundtable urged the political parties to include “Reformation of Land Law’ in their next election manifestos.

The political leaders suggested that the parties hold dialogue to include the issue in their manifestos. “A commission should be formed to review and reform land related laws,” said Suranjit Sengupta, minister without portfolio. AKM Mozammel Haque, MP, chairman, parliamentary standing body on the land ministry, said, “Huge corruption takes place in the allocations of khasland to the poor.”

Gaibandha lawmaker Fazle Rabbi Miah said the commission should comprise experts from government, non-government agencies, academics, researchers and activists. If the commission is staffed only with government officials, it will never work out, he warned. Awami League lawmaker Saber Hossain Chowdhury suggested sending a summary of the recommendations to the political parties.

Rajshahi lawmaker Fazle Hossain Badsha called the land settlement, registry offices a creepy place. He also said, “Our land laws are not friendly for women, minorities or indigenous people.” BNP lawmaker Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Anee asked for time to review the proposal. Shagufta Yeasmin Emily MP, human rights defender Khushi Kabir, Shafiq Rehman, Goutam Chakma, Philip Gain of SHED, and adivasi leader Sanjeeb Drong also spoke there. Two ministries, land and law, alongside the Association of Land Reform and Development (ALRD), Nijera Kari, Indigenous Peoples Development Service (IPDS), Uttaran, ActionAid, CARE, Incidine Bangladesh, Samata, and Society for Environment and Human Development (SHED) assisted the research.

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