By Habib Khan Ghori
KARACHI: More than 50 per cent of the peasant women beneficiaries of the Sindh government’s land distribution programme are awaiting ownership documents. In some cases influential people have grabbed their land. They have even been allotted land reserved for graveyards, or sand dunes or waterlogged areas, reveals a study.
The study, titled ‘Sindh government’s land distribution programme: issues and challenges’, was conducted by the Participatory Development Initiatives with the support of Oxfam GB.
Launching the study in a local hotel on Thursday, PDI Director Sikander Brohi said the study had shown that over 50 per cent of women land grantees were still without legal land ownership documents.
Although at the provincial level, the Sindh government had taken a number of initiatives to ensure transparency in the process of land distribution, its implementation at the district level was cumbersome.
“The Sindh government had formed a steering committee at the provincial level to oversee the process and had issued strict instructions that such joint land distribution committees of different stakeholders should be formed at the district level. And the land identified for the distribution should be free from all the issues and should be cultivable land and proper criteria should be implemented for the identification of the land grantees,” the study said. But, unfortunately, Mr Brohi said, at the district level the process was not participatory as only the revenue department was the key player and other stakeholders were not taken onboard. As a result, in many cases the land identified for the distribution was uncultivable, at some places it had sand dunes and at others it was waterlogged.
According to the study, the process of the identification of the beneficiaries was also flawed. In many cases land was allotted to relatives and people of the clans of political influential persons. In some cases, poor land grantees have received very small portions of the land, as small as one-and-a-half or two acres, while women belonging to influential families have received even more than 15 acres.
He said that according to the study the poor women had even been allotted graveyard lands, land with big ponds or sand dunes and even the pieces of land eroded by the sea. According to the study, a large number of women could not benefit from the programme due to the poor publicity of the land distribution and arranging open kachehries for the distribution of land in influential people’s drawing rooms.
Recalling the post-land distribution issues, the study has identified lack of legal ownership documents to the land grantees as one of the key issues as due to the only simple allotment lists or letters, there is a threat looming large over those women that their land might be cancelled and given to other influential women.
The study has documented many cases in which the land given to a woman has been cancelled without reason and re-allotted to another woman. The study has said that due to the lack of ownership documents (Form 7) in the name of the land grantees and no demarcation of the land granted, in many cases influential persons have either occupied the land granted to women or have filed appeals in the revenue department against the land grant, stopping women from cultivating their lands.
The study has recommended to the government to issue land ownership documents to all the land grantees without delay, make the second phase of the land distribution process more participatory and bring changes in the legal framework to ensure sustainable ownership of the land by the women.
Speaking on the occasion, Neva Khan of Oxfam GB said her organisation was working for rights of the poor and marginalised communities and that was why it had decided to support the local communities in the land distribution process.
She expressed the hope that the Sindh government would take serious notice of the flaws in the land distribution programme as identified in the study and would make efforts to rectify them.
MPA Humera Alwani demanded that elected representatives be given proper representation in the entire process. She said that due to lack of participation of legislators, not only that uncultivable land had been given to poor women, but influential people also got allotted land in the name of their family women and even in the name of their women servants.
Giving the government viewpoint on the land distribution programme, Secretary for Land Utilisation Subhan Memon admitted that flaws had crept into the programme’s implementation. He said about 65 land grantees were genuine who had been provided seed and other inputs for the cultivation of the land.
He said they had learnt a lot from the process in the first phase and would soon launch the second phase, with more clear and improved legal framework and implementation mechanisms.