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

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.