Land is a very valuable and scarce resource. People need land to grow food, to build cities, for investments as well as for housing. Therefore, access to land, rights over land, the management and administration of land and the settling of land conflicts are very important for human kind.
Farming is a way of life for nearly half of the world's people. In many developing countries and some formerly communist societies, rural families comprise a substantial majority of the population. For these families, land represents a fundamental asset: it is a primary source of income, security, and status. But almost half of these rural families--some 230 million households--either lack any access to land or a secure stake in the land they till. As a result, acute poverty, and related problems of hunger, social unrest, and environmental degradation persist.
Tribal people's rights being a part of the broad human rights phenomena have acquired significance in recent times. As human beings the people who live in tribal lands acquire a similar set of rights like others. Being citizens of the country they are entitled to a number of privileges as well. From time immemorial there have been violations of their fundamental rights. In contemporary society the state comes to their rescue to some extent. The increasing awareness of the concept of human rights under the aegis of the UNO, world media, NGOs etc. proves beneficial to the victims.

Alienation, in property law, is the capacity for a piece of property or a property right to be sold or otherwise transferred from one party to another. Although property is generally deemed to be alienable, it may be subject to restraints on alienation.

Alienation of land refers to the acquisition of land from customary land owners for private or governmental purposes, either for its own use or for private development requiring mortgages or other forms of guarantees.

Land tenure refers to a bundle of rights. Land tenure designates the rights individuals and communities have with regard to land, namely the right to occupy, to use, to develop, to inherit, and to transfer land. Land tenure should thus primarily be viewed as a social relation involving a complex set of rules that governs land use and land ownership. While some users may have access to the entire 'bundle of rights' with full use and transfer rights, other users may be limited in their use of land resources .The exact nature and content of these rights, the extent to which people have confidence that they will be honoured, and their various degrees of recognition by public authorities and the concerned communities, have a direct impact on how land is used.

Land tenure reform refers to a planned change in the terms and conditions (e.g. the adjustment of the terms of contracts between land owners and tenants, or the conversion of more informal tenancy into formal property rights). A fundamental goal is to enhance and to secure people's land rights
Today, Co existence of both customary land tenure and state as well as alien (foreign colonies) involvement in those areas, for the purpose of development is a question that requires urgent answer.

This co existence has led to the development of land market in peri-urban Accra, where land is rapidly being converted from agricultural to residential use. The land market is shown to be complex and diverse, characterized by a high level of uncertainty and widespread disputes. The strong sense of cultural identity associated with customary land, and the difficulties of introducing major changes to land markets, however, point towards maintaining a modified form of customary land tenure.

Such markets are witnessed in Ghana, Ecuador, and Colombia etc. Other than inter country trade or colonial acquisition of land, individual countries in their federal policies reserve the rights to alienate land.

Alienation, a euphemistic term for grabbing the lands of the tribal peoples by non-tribal's, is widespread in India. The Ministry of Rural Development of the Government of India in its 2007-2008 Annual Report states, "The State Governments have accepted the policy of prohibiting the transfer of land from tribal's to nontribal and for restoration of alienated tribal lands to them. The States with large tribal population have since enacted laws for this purpose."
Such alienation of land results in a war between modernity and preserving the culture. But what poses a greater threat is degradation of land, problems of human rights and disputes arising over land laws and a faulty trade system.


Property relations are fundamental in determining who gains and who loses during modernization processes incorporating reluctant peasantries into national economies and the profit driven world system. But ownership of land, like that of other property, is essentially a sub-set of social relations. It implies a bundle of institutionalized rights and obligations sanctioned by custom or law that regulate relationships among individuals, families, social groups and classes, communities, corporate entities and the state in their access to land and its products. Because the modern state claims exclusive rights to adjudicate legal disputes and to the legitimate use of coercive force within its territory, it is necessarily a key factor in land tenure systems.

Land tenure systems are sometimes classified as private property regimes, common property, state property or open access . This typology is helpful for some purposes but less so for others. In reality, one finds that the rights and obligations associated with land ownership and tenancies can assume an almost infinite number of forms in practice. The simplistic dichotomy between public and private property, frequently used indiscriminately by both neo-liberals and Marxists, is dangerously misleading.

The terms "land tenure systems" and "agrarian systems" are often used interchangeably. FAO's distinction between the two terms, however, is useful both for exposition and analysis. Land tenure systems, as explained above, are defined by the legal and customary relations among parties directly using the land or appropriating its products. Agrarian systems refer to the broader institutional framework within which agricultural and related rural activities take place. In addition to land tenure, agrarian systems include credit, marketing, agro- processing, irrigation, technical assistance and other socio-economic and political institutions and public policies most relevant for the rural population. Land tenure systems constitute the core of agrarian structures as they most clearly crystallize rural power relations. They strongly influence the complementary social institutions that comprise agrarian structures.

Land tenure relations, like other institutions, are constantly changing, although their resistance to change is what distinguishes them from more ephemeral policies by the state and by other social actors. Agrarian institutions have a historical dimension that analysts and policy makers must understand if they are to take effective action to achieve their goals. Present-day conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, or Serbs and Croats, over land rights are examples. It behooves anyone attempting to deal with current agrarian problems to take their historical roots and evolutionary paths in each locality and country fully into account.

Colonial authorities everywhere realized that control of land and cheap labor for colonial enterprises had to go together. If abundant lands were easily accessible to unfree workers for self-provisioning, they would leave to farm for themselves. This would drive up wages, making export commodities more costly and less competitive for estate owners. Where most good agricultural land was already in use and labor abundant, however, such as in much of British India and Dutch Java, it was often more profitable to extract an exportable agricultural surplus from the peasantry through taxes and unfavorable terms of trade. Even in some regions of Africa, it was more profitable to force indigenous populations to undertake the production of export crops by imposing head taxes that had to be paid in cash, which could only be obtained by producing cash crops or working for low wages in colonial enterprises. In every case, the political and economic factors generating widespread rural poverty were mutually supportive. Moreover, the state always played a crucial role. So too did other non-local actors such as transnational and domestic investors, speculators and agents of foreign powers competing for profits and influence.

In developing countries that were never conquered by rich colonial powers or were only briefly subjugated, such as Ethiopia, Thailand and China, processes generating rural poverty and landlessness were in many respects similar to those sketched above. Military occupation and formal annexation were thus not prerequisites for incorporation into the world system in a subordinate role. Home- grown elites could control rural land and labor for their own benefit just as well as colonial authorities, although they often had help from foreign investors, merchants, missionaries and adventurers. As in the former colonies, rural population growth and degraded natural resources contributed to land scarcity in some areas, but not in others. In any event, these were as much symptoms of the style of "development" these states pursued as were the landlessness and poverty that they were allegedly causing.

Divergent historical paths have led to land tenure systems that are to some extent unique in each locality, country and region. In the mid-twentieth century when the United Nations was created and most remaining colonial dependencies were on the verge of achieving independence, three broad patterns of land tenure relations were found, though with countless variations, in what are now called developing countries. One or another of these usually dominated their agrarian structures, but that evolved to maintain these exploitative modes of production surely have to enter into any explanation of current agrarian structures of developing countries.

About Author / Additional Info:
2. Cross, C. (1998) 'Rural land tenure reform: Surrounded by hungry allocators'. Indicator. Vol.4, No.2. Durban: University of Natal.
3.Fisher, 1995
4.Kellner, Douglas (1989). Ernesto "Che" Guevara World Leaders Past and Present.