Farmers Harassed, Fight for Secure Land Rights

Madhya Pradesh is one India's most forest rich areas of India with thirty three per cent of its land under forests. For a majority of its population, who are farmers these forests are essential parts of their lives. Their lands, small produce like wood, fruits, medicinal herbs all come from there. Often this close relationship of the people with the forests throws up problems for the former. VV-PACS Correspondent Khurban Damor reports from Temariya village in Jhabua District where farmers are continuously harassed by the Forest Department Officials. Of the 180 families of the village, most have farm lands about half a kilometre away from the forest. Soya and Wheat crops are the staple of the area and make just enough money to survive. Since 2012, 7 of these farming families have faced indiscriminate harassment by the hands of the Forest Department officers. "They came and thrashed us while we were grazing our cattle one day. I broke my hand in that skirmish.... After one enquiry by the Collector, the forest officials promised to let us stay, but the troubles continue. They keep saying our papers are false", says Nathulal Damor, a farmer whose family has been farming on the land since 1972. His father Ramesh says that they have knocked on every possible official's door with their request-- the collector, the forest department, the chief minister. Around 53% of Madhya Pradesh's population lives below the poverty line. Their opportunities to earn incomes are severely limited because of poor infrastructure like roads and electricity. Uncertain land rights play a large role in further limiting these opportunities. While it is important to conserve forests in the country it is also essential to ensure that the country's farmers, who form such a large part of the economy, have access to their rights. In this case land use will not hamper any forest area, then why all the fuss to provide tenancy? CC Khurban, who works at Adivasi Chetna Shikshan Seva Samiti, says that this problem exists across Madhya Pradesh. The main issue is the most farmers have no proper tenancy and are at a continuous risk of being mistreated or worse, being thrown off their lands. "In one block alone, I know that the organisation has received at least 1600 such applications for land allotments. Often the committees formed don't take action. After the video I made about Temariya, we know that the committee has finally at least filed an application to make sure the farmers get their land rights. We have to wait to see whether this will actually happen." Make sure that it does happen and that the families stop being harassed by forest officials. Call to Action: Please call the Co-ordinator of the Tribal Development Department on 0975597989 and ask him to ensure that land rights are given to all farmers in this area. About the Partnership: The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Programme and Video Volunteers have come together to create the Community Correspondents Network. The videos generated by the network will be able to highlight voices from the margins, providing skills to social communicators to provide advocacy tools to community based organizations.

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