Reforming land laws crucial to stop land grabbing
Recently, the National River Conservation Commission (NRCC) has reported that 57,390 individuals and organisations have grabbed the country's 770 rivers. As expected, 10 per cent of the encroachers were locally and politically influential people. As many as 18,579 offenders have been evicted in the past year by law enforcers and administrators, but huge chunks of land remains illegally occupied by those influential political goons.
The eviction drives have become serious in action from last year. But multiple reasons have been identified as the eviction drives couldn't hit the target. The NRCC chairman also blames that insufficient funding and inadequacy of logistics support for the chief administrators being the key setbacks. Moreover, many government offices also grabbed lands illegally and thus it is quite difficult to demolish those structures. Moreover, Covid-19 is obviously a reason because the prolonged lockdown caused serious interruption in drives.
We have reiterated in previous editorials that there is a political economy of land grabbing. And we have also written that the interests of vested organisations, individuals, communities and classes play a dominant role behind the crime. Often these interests are unjust and discriminatory.
It is truly disappointing that some of the key state offices are also engaged in land grabbing. This reflects the sheer defiance shown to rule of law.
However, it is good to know that NRCC and BIWTA will collaborate and take necessary steps to recover the expenditure from the concerned persons and institutions during the eviction drive. Last year, the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave directives to carry out the activities to save the country's rivers through evicting the river grabbers. It seems the authority concerned is committed to follow her instructions through strong actions as we are witnessing good progress of eviction drives in Dhaka where the rate of eviction is 83.09 per cent.
Recovering illegally occupied lands is not the last thing we wanted. We call for exemplary punishment handed out to land grabbers. Few days back we have seen some influential names, such as Hazi Selim and his son, whose prime income source was land grabbing. There are many more such names veiled and unknown. Moreover, we need to strengthen land governance to curb land grabbing. Last year the Land Ministry decided to reform the existing land laws to curb land grabbing but the law has not been reformed yet. Again, it has also been promised that Land Zoning Project will be completed soon but that also did not happen.
Now, we have indentified the causes, we need to focus on and we need to work on those projects without further delay.