The Question of Land Rights for the Dalits

23 February 2012, Chatra On 23 February the journey halted at village Itkhori Karma of Chatra district where a public hearing had been organised by the ‘Sarvangin Vikas Kendra’ and ‘Sajha Manch’. Shri Ramanand of ‘Sarvangin Vikas Manch’ said that this region of the Chatra district is considered drought prone and while the dalits form a majority of the population only 25% dalits have ownership rights over land. 75%% of the dalits are agriculture labour who migrate in large numbers inseach of livelihood. 317 families from the Karma and Itkhori Gram Panchayat applied for land under the Forest Rights Act but so far they have not received any response from the administration, he said. He asked as to why there was no justice to the government policies given that most of the dalit families have been cultivating occupied forestlands for three generations and more? It is difficult to obtain documents for the occupied land because during the British period the entire land settlement process was tilted in favour of the landlords. It is sadly hilarious that papers issued by a colonial power are even today considered more important than the rights of the people. Shri Sooraj Dev of ‘Yuva Jagriti Krishak Club’ said that this region has an acute shortage of water for irrigation and even for drinking. According to official records merely 16% land is irrigated but the government is not considering any schemes for increasing the irrigated land. Smt Munni Devi of Ramkarma said that caste based discrimination is still prevalent in the region and the administration has not taken any action on the applications filed by the landless and homeless Dalits for land under the Forest Rights Act. She asked the Janstyagrah leader Shri PV Rajagopal to take note of this and raise it as an issue for amendment in the Forest Rights Act. Shri Prayag Bhuia of Mayapur said that twenty years ago 82 families had occupied land and started cultivation in their village. These families gave many applications to the administration and also filed claims under Forest Rights Act but their claims have been rejected. Smt Meena Devi of village Karma said that 25 people from her village would participate in Jansatyagrah 2012. For the next halt of the Jansamvad Yatra a many social organisations of the region organised a meeting at Hazaribagh in cooperation with ‘Sajha Manch’. Representatives from ‘Gram Adhikar Abhiyan’, ‘Bhartiya Yuva sanghatan’, ‘Udghosh’, ‘Gramin India’, ‘Adivasi Navkiran’, ‘Jago Foundation’, ‘Nidan Foundation’, ‘Navbharat Jagriti Kendra’, ‘Lok Samiti’, and ‘Adivasi Sewa Sansthan’ attended the meeting. Industry/Company Proposed Land Transfer (in Acres) NTPC 5500 acres Reliance 6000 acres Nilanchal Industries 2500 acres Rongta 2500 acres Abhijit Group 1000 acres Proposed Dehri Dam Scheme in Keredari Village 2300 acres The transfer proceedings for the mentioned land have been started in the Badhkagaon region. Pritam Sav, Sangharsh Morcha SAMVAD YATRA NEWS Page 5 Shri Vishav Bandhu of ‘Gram Adhikar Abhiyan’ said that in view of the recent High Court judgment in favour of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act the state government was considering an amendment to these Act because of the mounting pressure from the corporate lobby. In reality these Acts are in the IX Schedule of Constitution and as such not only the state government but the Government of India also does not have any right to amend them. The companies are being given permissions in violation of these Acts and this is a very serious issue. According to a survey by the organization small scale industries are not being any support by the state government as a result 104 cottage industries in Hazaribagh alone are on the verge of closure. He further said that in the Karanpura Pargana of Hazaribagh companies were given permission to mine coal and in this context the government has already announced acquisition of about 8000 acres of agriculture land. Neither the government nor the Pollution Control Board has any clear policy on dealing with the destruction that will result from this mining. Shri Jora Sav of the ‘Kshetriya Sangharsh Samiti’ said that hundreds of acres of agriculture land is being acquired in the name of Kodarma-Giridih Road Project while in the very same areas settlement proceedings for land cultivated by more than 6000 dalit families is still pending. He asked as to why no judicial action is taken against the government for not being able to settle claims that have been pending for more than 40 years? Towards the end of the meeting all the organisations announced their support for Jansatyagrah 2012 and agreed to be a part of it beginning 2 October 2012.

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