Dirty Deals on Tribal Land

In Orrisa, the  Govt. and upper castes cheat Tribals of traditional Farmland On paper, the Tribal land rights Act of the Orissa government states that if a non-tribal is found acquiring tribal land from a tribal who owns less than 2 acres of irrigated farm land or less than five acres of unirrigated farmland, it would constitute a violation that could land the non-tribal with an extended jail term.  But Sarita Biswal, Community Correspondent from Kochila village in Cuttack district, Orissa maintains that if the Act looks like a tiger, it is in reality just a paper one . “The non-tribals and the government are taking advantage of the naivety and the illiteracy of the tribals and usurping their lands,” says Sarita. “Once you alienate a tribal from his land he will end up in the throes of starvation and poverty and with the unbearable weight of debt upon his shoulders. If you take a poor, illiterate tribal’s land away you are effectively damning his entire life. You have just willed him to carry out his suicide.” The government acts with impunity. It has on its side the colonial heritage of the Eminent Domain doctrine which stipulates that if the powers-to-be deems so, they can lawfully appropriate one’s private property for public use. Rehabilitation and compensation offered is meagre and the tribal lacks the resources to take on the might of the state. Such land acquisition is one of the primary reasons as to why the citizens of Orissa have been involved in a prolonged conflict with their government. The people are speaking out, they are creating human chains and barriers, and local grassroots movements are being played out. “In the near future, I can see the movement spread to Kochila,” says Sarita. “Discontent among the people has been on the rise and the government keeps looking the other way. It’s just a matter of time before the people take to the streets to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.” Other than government oppression, the tribals are being conned into selling off their lands to the upper castes who pose as agents as they surreptitiously transfer the papers of the land to their names. The tribals are unaware of their special rights as landowners and since they cannot read, the upper castes find it easy to get a tribal into pressing his thumbprint onto a piece of paper declaring the transfer of the ownership of the land. And when the tribals register a case with the police and the revenue department their complaints go unheard. “The main objective behind the video which I have produced is to make the tribal’s aware of their rights,” say Sarita. “How would they even enter into a fight with the government and the upper castes if they are not even aware of their constitutional rights and privileges?” Sarita is determined that the video brings the movement into Kochila. The oppression is ancient, the bureaucracy is absolute red tape, and the government is on the opposite side. “But the fight is ours to fight and we will not go down easy,” says Sarita,” The viewers of this video can help support us by writing in your protest to Cuttack Collectorate, Pochandinchowk by calling 9437900002 and ask the officials to look into the complaints and act on them.”

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