Haris get land without inputs

By Saleem Shaikh

Post Source: DAWN Economic & Business Review

DAwn July

“I was allotted five acres of arable land some eight months ago but essential inputs like credit, water seed, fertiliser and pesticide have not been provided as yet. I cannot bear expenses for the inputs nor get my land levelled for cultivation as I have no money, ” says Yousuf Chandio, a resident of Tando Bago tehsil in district Badin.

Scores of poor “beneficiaries” of the ‘Support Package under Landless Haris Programme of Sindh Government’ feel disappointed. The situation for the female allottees is rather pathetic. They say that mere grant of a few acres to them cannot resolve problems of the financially hard-pressed rural women.

According to official records, out of some 0.213 million acres of arable state land identified in different districts, the provincial government has distributed around 41,517 acres amongst 4,029 landless peasants–70.61 per cent women and 29.38 per cent men.

The programme is designed to reduce poverty amongst the poorest of the poor. The scheme focuses on poor women and aims to empower the rural women who generally continue to be denied their inherent rights over property.

Some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) monitoring the scheme are skeptical about its success as a plethora of reports regarding loopholes and political manipulation has surfaced.

These NGOs believe that outcome could be very much like 1973 land reforms when feudals in Sindh connived with the revenue department officials to tamper with records by producing fake peasants, to increasing their landholdings.

Engaged in focus group discussions (FGD) with the beneficiaries of land distribution, the Participatory Development Initiative (PDI) – a non-governmental organisation – which works with Oxfam (International) on development issues in Sindh and Balochistan, has pointed out manifold flaws and irregularities.

PDI director Sikander Brohi said: “We have witnessed some major issues in the process of the land distribution. For instance, there are problems of litigations, while in some cases, the beneficiary does not even qualify for the criteria set for the grant of free land.” But the Advisor to Chief Minister of Sindh, Sharmila Farooqui, rejects such reports.. She says:”To avoid such sort of a situation, the government has taken some major initiatives to computerise all land records. No such manipulation of land records could be done. It will also help us in distributing the land in a transparent manner.” Some beneficiaries in Thatta and Badin district complain that lands granted to them include portions hit by water logging and salinity. While others say that even barren lands have been distributed and that no farm inputs have been provided to them despite a lapse of eights months since they were allotted lands.

Admitting such grievances, Sharmila Farooqi said: “We are presently in process of importing Chinese technology that will make these chunks of lands–where there is water-logging and salinity– cultivatable.” She recalled that the provincial government had promised to provide free seed and fertiliser to allottees. In few places, such farm inputs have already been distributed.

”Since distribution of these farm inputs to thousands of beneficiaries is a time consuming process and not a matter of few weeks, concern about non-provision of inputs to some beneficiaries is quite natural. Neverthless, we have expedited the process of farm inputs and hopefully all the beneficiaries should be getting the required inputs in the coming few weeks,” she added.

Members of some civil society organisations in Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Shikarpur have complained about the absence of any formal institutional framework and lack of coordination as envisaged by the Provincial Steering Committee (PSC) and that the revenue department was dealing with the matters of land iden tification and distribution almost exclusively..

However officials in the revenue department deny such reports, saying: “District committees headed by district coordinating officers (DCOs) supervise preparatory work at the grassroots level. While the district revenue officers play the key role at multiple levels, they are being monitored by the district hierarchy– the LUD and the PSC.” But Sharmila Farooqui termed such reports as a matter of perception and said: “The provincial revenue department works in close collaboration with the agriculture and irrigation departments.” There is no check and balance and monitoring of the programme at district level and the scheme has been left to the revenue department officials to execute, some NGOs’ members complained.

Officials in the provincial irrigation department concede about such complaints from some NGOs regarding the widespread manipulation in identifying and distribution of land.

Sindh Chief Minister Sayed Qaim Ali Shah announced in the last fiscal year that revenue department had furnished details of 2,12,864 acres of land in different districts including 1,36, 784 acres of barrage land to be distributed among the landless peasants.

But the provincial government’s free land distribution programme will fail, if the beneficiaries of the scheme do not get the farm inputs and irrigation water in a hassle-free manner. mohammad.saleem@dawnnews.tv

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