Ensuring Land Rights to Mahadalits of Jamui District in Bihar
Bihar is the third most populous state of the Indian Union with three fourths of its population depend upon agriculture and more than four-fifth living in rural areas. Land is one of the most important assets as majority of the people in the State are connected with agro-related activities. Historically state has had a bad performance in terms of land reform and society is divided into rigid caste system which accentuates deprivation and high degree of inequality continued after the decades of Independence. In order to address the issue of the landlessness among the most marginalized section of the society State Government has started a package of initiatives including a comprehensive programme for homestead land for house-site–less Mahadalits families. (Reference link)
Notably, 15 percent of Bihar's population comprises of Dalits. The poorest among the Dalits were declared Mahadalits in Bihar and they are around 90 lakhs in number. State Government had constituted a commission known as State Mahadalit Commission in the year 2007 basically to identify the castes within Scheduled Castes who lagged behind in the development process. The Commission identified 21 out of 22 schedule castes of Bihar, in three steps, as Mahadalit. It was an innovation in social engineering in Bihar that clubbed 21 Scheduled Castes which included Bantar, Bauri, Bhogta, Bhuiyan, Chaupal, Dabgar, Dom, Ghasi, Halalkhor, Hadi, Kanjar, Kuraria, Lalbegi, Mushar, Nat, Pan, Rajwar, Turi, Pasi, Dhobi, and Chamar into a single social faction for the first time. The only schedule caste of Bihar which is excluded from Mahadalit is Paswan. (Reference link)
The State Government launched a Mahadalit Vikas Yojana in year 2009-10. According to the scheme every Mahadalit family was to get a land plot of three decimals, or 1306.8 sq ft to build a home under Indira Awas Yojana. The allotment is made in any of four possible ways, of which three - under the gairmajarua aam and gairmajarua khas schemes and the Privileged Persons Homestead Tenancy Act - involves government land. The fourth way involves land bought from farmers and given to beneficiaries at a “ceiling price” of not more than Rs 20,000 for three decimals (or Rs 6,666 per decimal). The fourth way left plenty of scope for corruption and made the scheme full of irregularities and discrepancies.
Government officials colluded with brokers to buy land dirt cheap from villagers and then, within days, sold it to the government at four to five times that price. That land was then distributed under the Mahadalit Vikas Yojana. The state Government had identified 220729 Mahadalit landless families so far under this scheme but lackadaisical approach of the State government and irregularity has crippled this scheme. However, government claimed to have distributed plots to 70 percent of the beneficiaries. But reality is different on the ground. Inordinate delay in giving possession of land to beneficiaries was found. Those who were given land and possession, as per media report, the land is devoid of connecting road and lack of pucca house which was to build under Indira Awas Yojna which is why they sleep by side of highway and cook in open. They have built huts made-up of straws and dry bamboo sticks and due to the fear of catching fire while cooking; they used to cook in open. (Reference link)
Some of the land allotted is the part of village pond or other community property. The flagship scheme of State Government to provide land to landless Dalits went wrong and couldn’t succeed to give possession of land to the marginalized people of the State leaving thousand of Dalit across the state remain landless.
Under these circumstances urgent intervention from civil society organizations is essential. PAIRVI, therefore, wishes to intervene in matter under consideration with support from local grassroots organizations. Jamui, one the districts of Bihar, has sizable population of Mahadalits. There are around two lakhs mahadalits in the district. PAIRVI along with the help of a local grassroots organization, Smagra Seva has stepped in and started a campaign to ensure at least three decimals of land to most marginalized section of the district by linking with the scheme that not only would provide them housing land but would prestige to them too.
A campaign to submit the application forms demanding three decimals of land to the office of circle officers concerned has been started. And as of now, a total of 1891 Mahadalit families of 36 villages of 10 panchayats – Katauna, Numur, Chaudiha, Kundri Sankuraha , Daulatpur, Aghara Baruatta , Shahari, Amrath, Adsar and Kaindih – of Jamui, Barahat and Kaira blocks of the districts have been submitted their application form to the their circle officers concerned.
After the three years of commencement of the Mahadalit Vikas Yojna none of the people taking suo moto action has demanded their land rights formally to the official concerned. Considering the situation a drive has been initiated to aware these people about their rights and necessary action to be taken to empower them. Series of workshops, training programmes, community meeting, and district level seminars have been organized to make them awake, alert and aware about their rights and acquaint then about way it can be attained.
Following theses drives people started to demanding their rights. They have filed their petitions at Janta Durbar of District Magistrate seeking swift action against application submitted. Some of the people gone through the RTI way and seek exact information of action taken by the district administration. Dalit Adhikar Manch has been formed in these blocks that would peruse this issue and assist the villagers. They are following these issues very strictly which has put pressure on government officials.
It received supports of others community based organizations, local policy makers and people from other fraternities and created conducive environment among the mahadalits families. They, themselves, submitted the application demanding the land and constantly inquired about the progress to the circle officer.
A total of 15 landless mahadalits of Achahari village under Adsar panchayat of Jamui block were given land rights so far. They have been given possession of 3 decimals of land to construct the house under Indira Awas Yojna on 2nd October, 2013 at the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Entitlements of land to these landless people showcase the powerful impact of the programme undertaken. It left favorable impact on other people who are demanding and striving for land rights. It has also succeeded to avert migration in the village.
Circle officers started visiting the landless families. They have assured them to allot 3 decimals of land shortly. According to information form villagers circle officer of Jamui block has visited Amba, Achhari, Santhu, Agahara, and Chakpiri villages and assured them to give the possession of land by the end of March this year.
The whole exercise has translated into empowerment of the most marginalized and deprived section of the society. Villagers are now aware with the scheme and their right to have the land and how it can be attained. It has turned the campaign into a revolutionary phase.