An expert panel, appointed by NITI Aayog, has submitted its recommendations to formulate a model law to formalize leasing of agricultural land. According to an official of the NITI Aayog, the think-tank would finalize the model law in a few days after taking a holistic view of the committee report.

Background

Agriculture land leasing has till date been informal due to legal restrictions inflicted by some states; Due to lack of any legal framework for leasing, the informal tenants (the actual tillers )of agricultural land have, in many areas of the country, been bereaved access to institutional credit, disaster relief, and other support services. The situation, where beneficiaries of agriculture support services have been the land-owner and not the actual tillers, has ignited problems of farmers’ suicides, default of agricultural loans among others.

Keeping a view all these facts, the NITI Aayog, in September 2015, had set up an expert Committee, on Land Leaded by T. Haque to examine the existing agricultural tenancy laws of various States and prepare a model Agricultural Land leasing Act.

During the course of preparing and before submitting its report to the NITI Aayog, the expert committee held several rounds of discussions with States, farmers and civil society groups.

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Model Law Proposals by NITI Aayog

The draft model law, while mooting clear ownership of land with the lesser, disallows using the asset for mortgage purposes. It is because one of the key objectives of the model law is to provide insurance, disaster relief, and bank credit to the tenant without mortgaging of the leased land.

Land ownership, according to the model law, is going to remain secure and will return to the owner; if the share of land is sold before the completion of the lease, the rights of the tenants will be made in the land records.

The Act is designed for States that plan to legalize form land leasing. It is expected that State Governments would improvise the model Act to suit the local socio-political requirements. The definition of farmland is proposed to be expanded to comprise food processing.

Attestation of the lease has been proposed to be done at the level of the Sarpanch, local bank official or notary. The Model Act also suggests that farmers and farmer groups be permitted to lease out land.

The Model Act is going to enable tillers of the land to get all the benefits which till date only owners take benefits of. However, the proposed model law does not restrain owner of the land from selling the asset even during the lease period, as long as the cultivation rights of the tenant do not get affected.

The Model Act suggests quicker litigation process in case of disputes. It proposes recourse through criminal proceedings and special tribunal. It is anticipated that the dispute settlement will be taken up at the level of Gram Panchayat, Panchayat and Tehsildar.

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