Author Topic: Debate about land reform  (Read 1005 times)

Noor E Alam

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Debate about land reform
« on: May 19, 2018, 12:45:29 PM »
The land reform is a marginal issue in the policy agendas of Bangladesh government. There is debate among academia and policy makers whether distributive land reform is feasible in Bangladesh or not. Nearly 55% of the households are now functionally landless, a small fraction of land is controlled by households in holdings of over three hecters and the average size of holdings has declined to 0.6 hectare. How much land we can get with a ceiling on ownership at a reasonable level for distribution to 10 million rural households who own little or no land? Rather computerization of land records for ownership security is more important to reduce incidence of litigation around land disputes; land management is more important and viable than land reform.[1] The government of Bangladesh is aligned with this position.


There is inconsistency with this position. Is there any assurance of improving livelihoods of landless agriculture laborers if recording system will be computerized and increased the tenancy market? Does it discard the justification of distributive land reform in Bangladesh? The rich and powerful are getting settlement of khas[2] land in the char area of Noakhali. The role of state machinery and power structure is more important than so called invisible market power; it is evident from the case of Char in Noakhali.[3]  A significant part of the khas land is not within the custody of the government due to illegal occupation and encroachments. Besides, there is ceiling surplus land under the control/ownership powerful sections. According to a statement in Parliament by the Minister for Land on 4 February, 2010, a total of 1.3 million acres of public land has been grabbed[4].

Further, a significant portion of the 3.3 million acres of khas land is not within the control of the government due to illegal occupation and encroachments[5]. The Land grabbing culture has increased due to the non-transparent land administration system[6]. The land grabbing is acute in the charland, where most of the landless agriculture workers are living. According to the findings of a study conducted by ALRD found that 93% of charland are in the possession of landgrabbers.

“The amount of charland is approximately 1723 square k.m. which constitute 1.2% of the country’s total land. Charland is primarily khasland. Only 7% of charland are in possession of 77% of the population and 23% of population who are primarily land grabbers, are in possession of 93% of charland. This signifies extreme disparity in the ownership of charland, which causes, amount others, extreme poverty among most people in the chars.”[7]

 The other alarming issues are declining crop-land and conversion of khas land for public purposes and commercial use. It is reported that cultivated land has been declining by almost one percent per year due to its demand for increased habitation, industrial and commercial establishment, transport infrastructure, river erosion, and intrusion of saline water in the coastal areas.[8]

Internationally, Bangladesh is considered as an economically viable investment destination, attracting FDIs and remittances. Foreign investments are often in collaboration with the government as well as the private sector[9]. Steady economic growth over the past few years has likewise posed its own challenges on land rights in Bangladesh. Agricultural land is being diminished due to conversion into export processing zones, residential developments, infrastructure development and other government projects. Much of the converted land is khas land, which the government ought to be distributing to landless persons.[10]