The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday unveiled the draft of an ambitious land reform bill aimed at boosting farm production through consolidation of individual plots and also checking an alarming mass migration from the state’s hill districts.
Chief minister Harish Rawat, who was handed over the first copy of the draft Hill Land Reform and Management Bill, promised help to villages which volunteer to offer their land for consolidation.
Officials say that the highly fragmented holdings push up cost of production and leave very little profit for the farmers, which in turn leads to migration of the hills people in search of better economic prospects in other parts of the country.
Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 with the aim of ensuring development in the hills, which comprise 88% of the state’s geographical area.
Nine of the state’s 13 districts are completely in the hills while two are partially hilly. According to official data, around 35 lakh out of the 1.1-crore population live in the hills.
A study conducted by the directorate of economics and statistics in 2011-12 had revealed that nearly 1,100 villages do not have a single person left with the people migrating to other parts of the country.
The average land holding per person in the state ranges from 0.6 acre to 1 acre in the hills against a plains average of 3.25 acre, officials said.
Speaking at the official function, the chief minister said the draft would now be circulated among villagers for their views and added that a campaign would be launched to familiarise the people with its provisions.
“I can’t say for sure as a final decision on that would be taken following consultations with the state agriculture minister,” Rawat said when asked if the draft Bill would be tabled in the assembly session scheduled for November.
Stressing the need for ensuring the role of women in the proposed bill, Rawat said “it is very necessary considering that they are the backbone of hill agriculture”.
Speaking at the function, state agriculture minister Harak Singh Rawat said that “proposed land reforms act is must for rejuvenation of lost agricultural practices in hills villages and agriculture is mandatory to curtail mass migration from the villages.”
Experts and members of the panel said the draft bill will primarily help in curtailing mass migration by promoting agriculture and horticulture in the hill areas.
“We have no hesitation in claiming that this is the first big step towards consolidation of agricultural land in hill areas and a direct attempt to check mass migration and encourage return of migrated population,” said Kunwar Singh Bhandari, a member of the bill drafting committee.