Follow India's example, give land to Pak poor to avoid Taliban tentacles

Toronto, Oct.27 (ANI): A University of Washington academic has said Pakistan can learn from India's example of helping landless poor build better lives from themselves.

Roy Prosterman, the founder and chair emeritus of the Rural Development Institute and professor emeritus of law at the University of Washington, believes that the Pakistan Government can solve the backbreaking problems of its flood-affected countrymen by distributing house-and-garden micro-plots.

Prosterman, who has been nominated for The World Food Prize, the Hilton Humanitarian Award, the Alcan Prize, and the Nobel Peace Prize, was quoted by the Globe and Mail, as saying this initiative could help the affected people fend off Taliban recruiters who prey on their grievances.

Citing India's example, Prosterman said that a number of states are now granting cost-free ownership of house-and-garden plots of about a tenth of an acre (slightly bigger than a tennis court) to the landless poor.

He said that last year, the Indian Government, eager to make further progress on the issue of landlessness and to undermine a persisting Marxist rebel movement, pledged 200 million dollars to help buy lands - earmarked to become another two million micro-plots, at market price.

In some Indian states, existing public land can meet much of the need. Just one acre of land can decisively supplement the livelihoods of 10 landless families, give them status, and end their dependence on local landlords for a house site.

According to the Globe and Mail, Pakistan's Sindh province has distributed 43,000 acres of government-owned land since 2008, mostly to poor rural women.

That distribution has been of much larger plots (about 10 acres), but the same quantity of land could reach more than 400,000 landless families using the smaller house-and-garden plot model.

In Punjab province, Pakistan's most populous, the government is now distributing one-quarter-acre plots to an initial 1,500 landless families, using government land.

The house-and-garden small-plot model reduces the amount of land required, allowing the government to acquire the land voluntarily, at market price, or use underutilized public land.

As the floodwaters that covered one-fifth of Pakistan recede, it is clear that new grain crops on landlords' fields may not grow successfully for up to a year. But fast-maturing vegetable crops on newly allocated micro-plots could come much sooner, and on a repeating basis.

An area equal to five percent of the inundated lands would be sufficient to give 1/10th-of-an-acre plots to all of Pakistan's landless.

For the poor, owning at least some land of one's own is a lifeline to survival - a basic source of nutrition, income, status, and security.

Grossly mistreated by landowners, the landless poor in country after country have supported severe civil unrest and outright revolution.

Pakistan's land-tenure problems are more severe and have been more persistently ignored than nearly any others found on the planet.

Though the flood altered Pakistan's landscape, it does not alter the fact that the vast majority of land in Pakistan is owned by a very small number of landlords - chiefly by 300 families of "feudals" who have ruled the Pakistani countryside for generations.

Their workers make up nearly half of the rural population, own no land, and toil as sharecroppers, day laborers, or under debt bondage.

For generations, the only land most of them have been able to call their own is the plot for their grave.

Huge amounts of assistance are now flowing into Pakistan from the world community, some for immediate relief, but some for the longer term.

Islamabad and the provinces, with the support of the international community, therefore should embrace the giving of micro-plots to the landless to ensure that the laborers who didn't drown in their landlord's fields are afforded a chance to build better lives for themselves, creating greater stability in Pakistan, and in turn furthering global security. (ANI)

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