Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan
12. Integrated Planning For A Resource Base For Weaker Sections
It is important that all weaker sections should have a resource base to support their livelihood. All of them should of course have homestead land with full legal rights and as far as possible enough open space for kitchen gardens. But in addition efforts should be made to provide some land - preferably at least one hectare of land - to all poor families. Those families which have less land should have better access to other resources. So there is a strong case for mining leases to be given to cooperatives of rural poor. Forest resources should be used to benefit only the rural poor with special emphasis on tribals. In other words there should be integrated planning of natural resources to support livelihoods so that no one is deprived and all are able to meet their basic needs on a sustainable basis.
Bundelkhand is passing through critical times when large-scale ecological ruin and exploitative relationships pose a serious threat to the livelihood of common people. In such a situation this region badly needs policies which emphasise the protection of livelihoods of weaker sections based on the protection of environment. This includes allocation of higher government resources for realising this aim as well as creating a conducive situation in which common people feel highly motivated to work for the same aim. Existing policies on water, forests, mining and agriculture frequently fail to meet this objective and instead serve narrow vested interests.
A challenge before voluntary organisations and social activists is to create a strong public opinion in favour of policy initiatives which can combine protection of environment and sustainable livelihoods. Watershed plans can be prepared which combine land reforms, micro-finance, water-harvesting, afforestation, soil and water conservation and social reform with mobilisation of people, particularly weaker sections and women. These plans should combine more equal distribution of land with livelihood based on minor forest produce, eco-friendly mining, animal husbandry and fishing in such a way that the poorest people can improve their sustainable livelihood prospects on the basis of a just use of natural resources. In this resource-use planning, those who have the least farmland not only get at least some land but are promised more income from forests, minerals, ponds and other resources. The preparation and implementation of such plans even for a few watersheds can inspire the poor to strive for wider change. On the one hand small peasants need to be protected by encouraging farming systems and technologies which are favourable to small farmers. On the other hand more landless peasants should be helped to become small farmers. The livelihood base of all of them should be diversified to include - depending on local resource situation - work based on forests, mining, crafts, etc.