In fact, some of the groups in Chethana were pioneers in Land Right Movements and had thus helped evolve the following guidelines for the groups to follow in their land struggles.
Actions to be taken by Chethana partner groups as part of
Land Right Campaign
- Identify the nature of ownership and possession of land in every revenue village using land records such as A-register, Adangal, and SLR (settlement land record). Right to information Act (RTIA) can be effectively utilized for the said purpose.
- Identify the lands distributed under the Land Ceiling Act and the Bhoodan Movement and ensure that they had been distributed as per the records.
- Identify DC /Assigned Lands and ensure its distribution to the landless Dalits.
- Identify the lands under Co-operative Land Societies and rejuvenate the original societies or establish new ones to manage them.
- Mobilize people against any introduction or trial of G.M. seeds and foods.
- Be vigilant regarding government notifications to convert agricultural land to any other category or classification.
- The Two Acres Land Distribution Scheme (Tamil Nadu) must be evaluated by the groups and recommendations made for its effective implementation.
- Make use of Jama Banthi (Sittings of Revenue officers at each Taluk head quarters, once in a year) proceedings to settle land disputes.
- Use the protection of SC/ST Atrocities Act to prevent encroachments on Dalit lands.
- Help those who have titles but do not have lands to locate and take possession of the land.
- Put pressure on the government to distribute lands/lease out lands which are now in the hands of ineligible rich.
- Help to evolve people’s movements to take up these land-related and human rights issues and build alliances with other organizations and networks so that state wide and national level campaigns can be initiated on these issues.
- Mobilize the Rural poor to avail the benefits of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Food For Work and ensure its proper implementation.
- Mobilize people’s power around issues of displacement so that such attempts are resisted. It is also important to ensure that justice is done to the displaced, its social costs and livelihood impact is studied and taken into account before initiating such projects are finalized and also compensation package is worked out taking these aspects into account.
- Migration is to be resisted by making agriculture a means of sustainable livelihood and also increasing non-farm employment opportunities in rural areas. This also becomes the context of our active involvement in NREGA and FFW and such other schemes initiated by the State.
These guidelines provided added impetus and sharpness to actions and interventions of the groups in relation to legal and democratic struggles for land. The land struggle was further on taken up in a larger political canvas by some of the left leaning political formations. Some of them had turned violent resulting in police brutalities and death catching national and International media attention. However, the Chethana groups continue these land right activities with greater clarity and commitment through peaceful and democratic means.
Further, through consultations at various levels and legal counselors, the Chethana has evolved a ten point Bill of Demands on Land Rights and Land Reforms for influencing legislatures and political action. They also provide a basis of mobilizing people’s movements associated with each group and further networking them at the regional and South India Level and also linking them up with other border alliances.
People’s Bill of Demands to Reclaim Land as A Source of Life and Livelihood
With the following Bill of demands as the basis for rallying people together, it is proposed that Chethana groups will facilitate the formation of people’s organizations in their respective constituencies and locations. Associated with this, Chethana leadership will provide a platform for these people’s organizations to meet and further network with state level and national level movements to campaign for these demands with the central and state governments.
- Review and amend the Surplus Land Ceiling Act so as to reduce the land ceiling and also bring within its purview religious and Trust Lands.
- Enact legislation to initiate suo motto legal action to redeem the D.C. land (assigned land) to its original owners or re-assign them to landless Dalits.
- Establish land information center in every revenue village office.
- Implement the Forest Rights Act of January 1, 2007 regarding the protection of Tribal lands in letter and spirit so that tribal people have rights over forest land and Minor Forest Produce.
- Pass government G.O. so that title deeds of land distributed for agricultural purposes shall be registered in the name of the wife of the household.
- Enact special laws to ensure that agricultural land shall be used only for agricultural purposes or other agro-based cottage industries. Conversion of Agricultural land for any other purpose shall have the prior approval of the local governing authorities.
Amend the existing Panchayeti Raj Act so that any acquisition of land for any development project or industrial or commercial purposes shall be effective only with the prior approval of the Gram Sabha or corresponding local governing authority.
- a.Special orders must be issued that bank loans and subsidies shall be given to organic farmers through specified mechanisms such as land development bank, primary credit co-operative banks, etc.
- Loans shall not be tied to buying of seeds and other inorganic/ chemical agricultural in puts.
- In government-sponsored markets, special stalls must be opened for organic produce and premium support price must be provided.
- Government shall constitute a special authority or board to promote organic farming, research, training and development in this area, and marketing of the produce.
- Government shall ban G.M. seeds and foods.
- Constitute Water Resource Management Committees at the Panchayat level with farmers, NGOs and other technical experts to monitor, budget, conserve, and thus, ensure efficient utilization of water and maintenance of water resources.
- Enact laws regarding the consumption and use of water for commercial purposes.
- Special land courts must be constituted for the speedy disposal of cases involving land disputes.
With this bill of demands as the focus, core program workshops were organized at regional levels for capacity building and also evolving, movement building strategies. Thus, corresponding to each group (Non-Governmental Organization- NGO)), an independent movement of the vulnerable population in its area of operation was developed. Recently, these people’s movements were brought together under two regional platforms. (Read JH Newsletter: http://www.relufa.org/partners/jhnewsletter/southindia.htm). They are expected to further connect with other movements and alliances so that they can make a cumulative impact on people’s rights over land and natural resources.
Documentary on Land: During this period a documentary film, “It’s all about the Land” was released which highlights the situation of the landless, particularly Dalits and the concerns of land alienation and associated struggles of people in various parts of S.India. The documentary was distributed among the partner organizations and the partner group in Sacramento Presbytery.