The Politics of Land Law: Poverty and Land Legislation in Bangladesh
This thesis examines the major colonial and post-colonial land laws of Bangladesh and their relationship with poverty. It interprets them in the light of historical developments and social realities. The thesis argues that land laws in Bangladesh are essentially anti-poor. They contribute to the perpetuation of poverty. At present, two-thirds of the poor in Bangladesh are land-related poor. The land system that prevailed in colonial Bengal during the British period deprived the peasants of their land rights. This situation demanded a radical land reform based on a distributive approach upon decolonisation in 1947. Unfortunately, in the post-colonial political and legal settings of Bangladesh, land distribution has been unequal. Such inequality coupled with a weak land tenure system and fragile institutional reform created widespread poverty. The Bangladeshi land laws are complex and vague and dominated by politics. Its land law regime has structural loopholes and ideological drawbacks, which are enough to make reform attempts dysfunctional. Poverty in Bangladesh is a result of cumulative and mutually reinforcing deprivations. Land law is a major participant in it. Poverty will persist unless law addresses the true reasons of the poverty and a pro-poor approach to land reform is pursued. The gap between “law” and “land” is exposed and a distributive land law reform model is proposed.