BHUBANESWAR: At a time when the state is acquiring land for major industrial projects amid widespread protests, there are more than five lakh people in the state who don't have a place of their own to live in.
Land activists rued that while the state has faced severe protests against land acquisition for mega industrial projects, with at least 12 people getting killed in police firing at Kalinga Nagar for Tata's steel project in 2006, lakhs of people in the state don't have any shelter.
"In the last 50 years, about 200 companies got 600 leases for mining operations in one lakh hectare land in the state. The huge mining operation has changed the land use pattern and deprived many from their right to land in mining areas in our state," said Manas Jena, the chairperson of 'Odisha Jami Adhikar Manch'.
These activists have demanded that the state must implement the Odisha Government Land Settlement Act, 1962, and Odisha Prevention of Land Encroachment Act, 1972, strictly. The ministry of rural development in 2009 has clearly stated that in case of non-availability of sufficient government land, the state must purchase private land for distribution among landless people. But it is yet to be implemented, they rued.
Former revenue minister and senior BJP leader Biswabhushan Harichandan said, "In 2000, the BJP-BJD government decided to give 10 decimals of homestead land to all landless people in Odisha, which is yet to be implemented. Besides, in the last decade, about 2.5 lakh hectares of agriculture land in the state has been converted to other categories."
Odisha badly needs a state land policy, state land commission and fast track courts for quick redressal of land-related disputes. In Odisha, 70% of agricultural land is with 30% people and vice-versa, stated tribal activist Theophil Gomango.
He further stated that a group of activists also submitted a memorandum to the governor recently and urged him to direct the government to provide at least 2.5 acre agricultural land to each of the 40 lakh farming families of the state.
Speaking about the state government's initiatives, revenue minister Surya Narayan Patro said, "Under the 'Vasundhara' scheme, the state government is providing four decimal homestead land to landless families, whose total annual income is less than Rs 24,000."
He further said if there is sufficient barren or unused land available in a village and the landless families depended on agriculture, then they should be given one acre land for cultivation too.