Shakhawat Hossain, NewAge, June 8, 2009
The number of landless people in the country is growing steadily because of poverty, river erosion and legal disputes posing a grave threat to socioeconomic progress, according to experts and a government report.
The Agriculture Census 2008 conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics revealed that out of 28.67 million households, 4.48 million or 15.62 per cent were absolutely landless.
The current rate of increase in landlessness is 12.84 per cent in rural areas against 10.18 per cent in 1996 and 8.67 per cent in 1983-84, added the report released on Sunday.
The main reasons for the growing number of landless people, most of whom end up in the sprawling slums and streets of cities, are poverty and widening income disparity.
Besides, river erosion and legal disputes have been found as other factors contributing to the present trend of landlessness hindering socioeconomic advancement of the country.
MM Akash, teacher of economics at Dhaka University, said most of the landless people migrated to the urban areas in search of job and livelihood putting huge pressure on the cities.
Slums are spreading while utility services like electricity, water and transports in cities struggle to cope with the mounting pressure of population, he said.
The BBS survey said that Dhaka and Chittagong witnessed a sharp increase in the number of rural migrants in recent years because of rapid urbanisation.
Akash pointed out that desperate struggle for survival forced rural migrants to take up informal jobs in cities and even into the underworld aggravating the law and order.
Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies director general MK Mujeri said landless people had become a major source of cheap labour supply without which wage rates could be many time higher in metropolitan cities.
They suggested immediate measures like land reform to halt migration of landless people to urban areas.
Besides, employment generation and skill development training are essential so that the country’s growing formal sector can absorb the swelling army of landless people, they said.