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Round Table Discussion on Land Digitalisation: Prospect for Land Equality in Bangladesh
May 6, 2014
‘The government will go tough on land grabbers and corruption in the sector to ensure land rights of the marginal people. Civil society and non-government organizations are called upon to extend support to the government.’ – said Mr. Shamsur Rahman Sherif, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Land, Government of Bangladesh on 29th of April, 2014 at a national level `Round Table Discussion on Land Digitalisation: Prospect for Land Equality in Bangladesh’. The round-table discussion was organized by the European Union funded SALE (Sustainable Access to Land Equality) project which is running in partnership with Uttaran, Manusher Jonno Foundation and CARE Bangladesh.

The primary objective of SALE project is to strengthen access to land and property rights for all citizens, especially the poorest part of the community. SALE has been designed in line with the government’s Access-to-Land program to facilitate a provision of access to land equity for all to eradicate extreme poverty and contribute to the process of Digital Bangladesh.

The project will play the role of a facilitation to engage NGOs to interact and take the support to ensure transparency and accountability in land administration and management through introduction of digital land management system for updating land records in the targeted 3 piloted Upazillas namely Jamalpur Sadar, Amtali of Barguna and Mohanpur of Rajshahi District. The stakeholders include Ministry of Land, Upazila Settlement Office, Record Preparation Team, AC (Land), Local Government representatives and community members. The project is working towards promoting an enabling environment to support the development of individual capacity, social capital and collective action among the extreme poor. Furthermore, SALE is also influencing local government practices and enabling participation of the marginalized groups in a democratic process.

Due to poor land record system, land-grabbing and land encroachment practices are increasing. Power elites encroaching public lands with false documents and obtaining court decrees to confirm their ownership are one of the common issues faced in this sector. It is believed that SALE’s work and facilitation will have positive impact at the technical, economical, social and policy level. For instance, through SALE’s initiation, a large number of government land related officials will be trained on modern technology for land digitalization process. Targeted impact group will know the essential documents for land records and digitalization such as: deed, mutation, tax-paying receipts etc. As a result, capacity development of local key focal such as the Ward-based and Upazilla-based Bhumi (land) Committees, 750 Primary Organization’s (micro unit of this project) members will have the technical skills and local expertise to deal with and resolve local level land related issues. Transparency in the process and access to information through land records will encourage citizens at community level to learn about and practice their land & property rights.

In the open discussion session of the round-table, Mr. Rajkumar Shahu represented ASUS (Adivashi Shomaj Unnayan Shongho) and expressed his grief on the land ownership of the ethnic minorities who inherit their lands from ancestors that are passed over generation after generation but have no legal documents are the most vulnerable to the land grabbers. Mitali Nusrat Parvin from Onneshon shared the challenges to work in char lands and also in khas land distribution process of Bangladesh. In the round-table discussion, Mr. Shamsur Rahman Sherif, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Land, People’s Republic of Bangladesh participated as the Chief Guest at the round-table. Md. Abdul Mannan, DG, DLRS, also attended as the special guest. Mr. Shahidul Islam, Director of Uttaran introduced the SALE project to all. Ms. Shagufta Islam Emili, Honorable Member of Parliament, Mr. Philippe Jcques, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Bangladesh, Mr. Monzu Morshed, Deputy Chief of Party, SHOUHARDO-II, CARE Bangladesh delivered their complementary statements in the event. Professor Dr. Abul Barakat, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, shared his analytical research based findings, limitations and challenges of existing land laws and policies of Bangladesh with the participants. Keynote presentation on land digitalization process and prospects was given by Mr. Shamsul Alam, National Project Director of SALE project representing the Government’s partnership in the initiative. Shaheen Anam, Executive Director of Manusher Jonno Foundation moderated the discussion and made closing remarks as well.

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