Skip to main content

Reports prepared under UPA to provide land to Dalit, Adivasi tillers "put on backburner"

By PS Krishnan*
A national centrally-funded programme of universal agricultural land distribution to all rural scheduled caste (SC) or Dalit families, and also all rural scheduled (ST) or Adivasi and non-SC-non-ST landless agricultural labour families – and along with them, to all rural landless and poor agricultural labour families – would fulfill the promise of “land to the tiller” of the pre-Independence nationalist movement for Independence.
The decade-old Governors’ Committee Report under the Chairmanship of the late Dr PC Alexander, which has been put on the backburner, has shown that there is enough agricultural land with the government to provide a viable extent of agricultural land to all rural SC families. Some of these lands are alkaline/saline, like the large extents of usar lands in Uttar Pradesh, and they can be reclaimed by available technology and MNREGA labour.
The report of the Group of Ministers on Dalit Affairs (2008) set up in 2005 under the Chairmanship of the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also made a recommendation in this regard, but it too has been consigned to the backburner.
To complete this long neglected and long-delayed task, essential for striking at the plight of the vast majority of SC families, the Task Force method suggested and detailed in the Report (dated August 1, 2011) of the Sub-Group-I (with myself as chairman) of the Planning Commission and Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment’s Working Group on Empowerment of Scheduled Castes during XII Plan (hereafter “Sub-Group-I”) should be adopted.
Briefly, the Task Force method involves setting up in each Tehsil/Taluk of a small group of empowered officers, namely, a special Tahsildar, a Surveyor and, where necessary, a police officer, with all functional facilities like a jeep, who will go to each village and provide land for every landless SC family by:  
  1. Giving patta to those SC families which are in occupation of Government land for cultivation; and along with them also to landless ST and non-SC-non-ST landless agricultural labour families. 
  2. Evicting ineligible occupants of Government land and giving patta with possession to landless SC families; and after providing for SC families, to all landless ST and non-SC-non-ST agricultural labour families. 
  3. Taking stock of all Government lands which can be straightaway assigned / allotted to landless SC families (locally called by names like Assessed Wastes, Gair-mazaruva-Aam), Bhoodan lands etc, and after providing for SC families, to all landless ST and non-SC-non-ST agricultural labour families. 
  4. Where publicly owned lands are not adequate, by purchase of private land and land acquisition (for latter, a small amendment in the definition of “public purpose” in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 will be required. 
This is extremely important for SCs as they have historically emerged as a collectivity of castes prohibited from owning land and, therefore, even now are the largest component of rural landless labour families.
Along with SCs, all rural ST agricultural labour families and non-SC-non-ST rural landless agricultural labour families should also be provided, using Task-Force method on a village to village basis.

Irrigation for all unirrigated but irrigable Dalit, Adivasi lands

These measures along with legislative and other measures for prevention of grabbing of SC lands by others will, at one stroke, enable rural SC families to become economically self-sufficient; liberate themselves from humiliating wage-labour; prevent exposure of their women to labour in others’ fields and compulsion to fall back on child labour to supplement the meagre family income; and improve nutrition, especially that of pregnant and lactating mothers and children, reduce birth underweight and child malnutrition, sharply reduce neonatal, infant and child mortality and release all their children to go to schools where they should be – in all these parameters the figures for the SCs and STs are worse than those for many sub-Saharan African countries and, therefore, the overall figures for India are shameful.
This will also enable them to resist “untouchability” without fear for the next meal. At present if they cross the line of “untouchability” or complain against illegal discrimination, they have to face social and economic boycott and sometimes even atrocities including massacres as in Kilvenmani, Tamil Nadu, Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, both in Bihar, in all of which all the accused were acquitted, and numerous other instances in different States.
The additional production from their lands will remove all doubts and anxieties about adequacy of supplies of subsidized food under the recently enacted National Food Security Act, 2013.
There is sufficient number of successful examples of this transformation in parts of the country, but what is required is a nation-wide comprehensive programme which can be completed in a short period if the political and administrative heads of the Central and State Governments are determined and goal-oriented.
The programmes above were included in the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of 2004 and were also solemn commitments of the President of India in his Address to the Joint Session of the Parliament in 2004, but no attempt has been made to undertake them and accomplish them till now, despite my periodic reminders.

Restoration of Adivasis' lost lands

Unlike the SCs, the STs are not a landless class. They have traditionally been owners / collective owners of lands in their territorial homeland. But, after the commodification of land during the colonial rule, their lands are being grabbed by non-tribals. The pace of this dispossession has increased after Independence. On account of tribal revolts like the Santhal rebellion in Bihar (now Jharkhand) and Rampa Fituris in the tribal tracts of coastal Andhra, certain protective regulations prohibiting transfer of ST lands in tribal areas to non-tribals were enacted.
Subsequently in some States legislation to the same effect were enacted. These regulations and legislations now cover 12 States. Such regulations and legislations have to be enacted where they do not exist. Where they exist and where they will be enacted in future, the provisions have to be tightened.
Restoration of lost lands of tribals needs to be completed in one or two years. It will be possible if the Task-Force method is adopted, with a Special Tehsildar and Surveyor for every Tehsil/Taluk in the country which are in the tribal areas or in which there are tribal areas.

Land Banks for Dalits, Adivasis

Once education at all levels is made really accessible and affordable for SCs and STs, and once health and medical care is made universally available, accessible and affordable for all SCs and STs, and once economic measures are fully in position to give them adequate economic competence, there would normally be no reason for SC and ST families to sell their lands under distress conditions.
However, even after this, and in spite of the legislation proposed for prohibiting purchase or occupation of SC lands by non-SCs and the Scheduled Tribes Land Transfer Regulations/ Legislations, existing and proposed, there may be situations in which some SCs, and STs, may have inevitably to sell their lands. To provide for such contingencies, a land bank should be established by the Government of India in each State for buying such lands from them at the market rate and making such lands available to other SCs and STs so that the total pool of lands with SCs and STs is not depleted.
---
*Former secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Welfare; member, National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.

How retraints were imposed on academic freedom on the IIM-Ahmedabad campus

By Sandeep Pandey*  This is the seventh consecutive academic year when I would have gone as a visiting faculty member to the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad to teach an Elective course on Transformational Social Movements to the second year of Post Graduate Programme students. But the invitation has not come so far and it looks like it is the end of my teaching stint at IIM, at least, so long as the Bhartiya Janata Party remains in power at the centre.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there.