Report No. 130
Fresh Ordinance on Benami Holdings Urged
Express News Service
Madras, July 25: All trust lands, in East Thanjavur especially, should be taken over by the Government of India through Presidential Ordinance as the Benami (Prohibition of Right to Recover Property) Ordinance issued in May 1988, does not bring within its ambit the 'benami ownership by the trusts. Mr. S. Jagannathan, Chairman, Association of Sarvaseva Farms, has urged President R. Venkataraman.
In a representation handed over to the President he pointed out that the Benami Ordinance benefitted only the landowners, who had clearly manipulated to vest the ownership of their lands with their close relatives and trusted servants. The status quo (of large-scale benami holdings) continued, thus defeating the very objective of the law .
The President was also requested to advise the Government to publish the list of benamidars in each State, so as to find out the real owner of the lands; ownership must be vested only with the landless poor, and the surplus lands taken over by the Government. Mr. Jagannathan said that he explained how in the name of trusts, big landlords had cleverly retained possession of the hundreds of acres of land, hoodwinking the people and the Government. These 'spurious trusts' created in the name of schools/hospitals, Dharmasalas, etc. should be taken over by the Government.
A "sample survey" conducted by his movement in East Thanjavur revealed that 21 different trusts 'owned' about 5800 acres of wet lands, including 2300 acres by a trust in Kumbakonam, which is alleged to be a benami holding of a Cong-I bigwig.
Mr. Jagannathan, who is a member of the Land for the Tillers' Freedoin said that he also met the Union Law Minister Mr. Bhardwaj and Mrs. Sheila Dixit, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, and requested them to make suitable amendments when the Benami Ordinance was taken up in Parliament during the coming monsoon session.
Meanwhile, his movement would mobilise public opinion throughout the State so that the individual 'owners' of the lands could be persuaded to avail of the Ordinance and take over the lands, without any fear. He was also planning to organise an all-party conference in Madras city sometime in August to chalk out measures to unearth the benami holdings.
He said that Tamil Nadu was the pioneer in bringing the Benami (Land) Abolition Act as early as in 1981, but the Centre did not arrange for the requisite Presidential assent to it. Again when the ordinance to end Benami land holdings was issued in May 1988, the "powerful influence of the feudalistic class" connived to dilute the law so as to cover only individual benami holdings and not trust lands, he alleged.