Land policy may be an eyewash Sunday, Jan 6 2008 

Cropping patternsThe draft Kerala Land Policy, released by the Government last week, is to be taken with a pinch of salt.

It is an attempt to refurbish the image of the Government tarnished by its failure to reclaim encroached Government lands. It also vows by the land reforms to neutralise the publicity over the Industries Secretary’s proposal to roll back land reforms. (The law, he said, had outlived the need.)

Policy contains hardly any specific proposals on crucial and controversial issues. Where it states something specific, it is established policy like land and titles for the poor (including tribals) and settlers and the poor. The test of the policy will be whether the government takes clear stand on various issues and implements the policy

The policy tries to create the impression that it is absence of laws that lead to encroachment and irregular land transactions. However, it is the government’s failure to enforce the laws that lead to irregularities.

Here is a sampler from the policy: The Government will take measures, including legislative measures, to strongly prevent illegal purchases of land and amassment of properties. Note that the sentence itself says that the purchases in question are illegal. Then, who do the Government need another law to prevent them?

The Government may argue that it needed stringent laws to check the abuse. However, experience shows that stringent laws with bigger punishments are not the answer when the problem is basically the unwillingness of the Government machinery to enforce the laws. A case in point is the Anti Social Activities Act, providing for preventive detention. The law has not served to bring down crimes.

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Kerala Government’s Advocacy Saturday, Oct 20 2007 

Tea Garden

The Kerala Government claimed that the Tatas and Harrisons have encroached upon Government land. The companies promptly denied that through newspaper advertisements.

The Government ordered a satellite survey to determine the extent of encroachment at Munnar. Though months have passed, nothing is heard of the survey results. Recently, it asked the proprietors of Merchiston estate to vacate.

Well, the Government does not mean all that it says. It had no objections to the High Court granting a stay to Merchiston estate. To fight the experienced and well-paid counsels of Harrisons, it deputed a son of one the CPI MLAs. He told a television interview recently that the Merchiston and Ponmudi were part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve!