Criticality of efficient management of land resources to the sustainable economic development and socio-cultural harmony has been universally acknowledged and as the process of modern technology and industry led growth coupled with fast-paced urbanisation gathers increasing momentum the importance of optimal utilisation of land has acquired new dimensions. There have always been voices underlining the necessity of a humane and holistic approach to the management of land resources, so that decisions are not guided by current moment bias and are based on balanced processing of the competing demands. When Willa Cather says that Land belongs to the future; When Thomas Jefferson opines that “No generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence;” when Moss Cass writes that We have not inherited this earth from our parents to do with it what we will. We have borrowed it from our children and we must be careful to use it in their interests as well as our own;” when Theodor Roosevelt echoes the sentiment that The term “for the people” must always include the people unborn as well as the people now alive, or the democratic ideal is not realized; and when Aldo Leopold observes that We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect; they are all essentially saying that this precious resource needs to be handled with utmost care.
Revenue Administration in the state has evolved over a period of time through the institutional and structural fabric put in place by the colonial rulers essentially based on the needs of an agrarian economy and considerations of revenue maximization and firm control over the Law and Order scenario. Successive Land Policies coupled with new legislations promulgated by the state Government tried to address the issues of equity and aligning land management to emerging demands of complex socio-economic realities, but there has not been any paradigm shift in the broad administrative-legal framework governing the management of land; nor has been witnessed any significant change in the psycho-philosophical outlook of the administrative machinery towards land management. State Government has been conscious of the inadequacies of the prevailing scenario and has taken several momentous initiatives to herald a new era in the management of land resources in the state.
Draft national Land Use Policy includes in the definition of land “things attached to the Earth or anything permanently fastened to the things attached to the Earth.” It is amazing that an age-old Sanskrit Saying reflects the same organic and holistic understanding of land: God sleeps in minerals, awakens in plants, walks in animals and thinks in humans.
Lines of Barry Lopez deserve mention in this context: For a relationship with landscape to be lasting, it must be reciprocal. In approaching the land with an attitude of obligation, willing to observe courtesies difficult to articulate - perhaps only a gesture of the hands - one establishes a regard from which dignity can emerge. From that dignified relationship with the land, it is possible to image an extension of dignified relationships throughout one's life."
Forging an ethical and dignified relationship with land is looked upon as an important challenge by the state government and this is more than reflected in the renaming of the Revenue Department as Revenue and Disaster management Department and several other initiatives taken by it. Most important of them are the decisions to create a ground level institutional mechanism in the form Village Land Management and Conservation Committee (VLMCC) for promoting the concept and spirit of stewardship of land at the community level and prepare perspective Village land Use Plan (VLUP) for each of about 27000 revenue villages in the state that will serve as the primary tool for deciding the way the land resources should be earmarked for various purposes. These two path-breaking decisions ensure that there will be no adhocism and short-termism in the decision-making process, informed and balanced decisions will be taken and the community will have an active role in the decision-making process; and will create a landscape, to use the words of Wendell Berry, that will have a higher ratio of caretakers to acres, of care to use. Former American Vice-President Al also underscores the importance of attitudinal change at the level of community when he say that the struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies. The cardinal purpose behind creating VLMCCs is to turn people into the allies of the land resources and make them internalise the truth that I am I plus my surroundings; and if I do not preserve the latter, I do not preserve myself. " More than 16000 VLMCCs have been formed and a detailed action plan has been chalked out for their orientation and empowerment.
The state has been extremely fortunate to have been handed down plenty of land reserved for the community purposes by past generations. Majority of the villages of open and green spaces, mostly in the form of Village Grazing Reserves (VGRs) and Professional Grazing Reseves (PGRs). There are other categories of reserved land too, like, Road-side reserve, river-side reserve, wetlands etc. and the state is also blessed with substantial unreserved land under government control. But at the same time it has a large chunk of its population as landless and there are areas ravaged by recurrent floods and erosion rendering a vast multitude homeless and landless. It has resulted into unregulated encroachment taking place on large areas of reserved categories of community land with harmful consequences of various kinds. The situation calls for effective government intervention to protect the interests of both the ecology and the people. Government has responded by creating Village land Bank (VLB) for every revenue village and making it online, so that authentic data is available for the preparation of VLUPs and the ground situation can be monitored effectively to prevent unauthorised encroachment. Janet Kaufman has very aptly pointed out the dangers of unpragmatic approach to the use of land resources - We have an arsenal of ideas about land use possibly as dangerous to human life on the planet as the use of nuclear arms. Village land Banks can serve as an important tool for informed decision-making.