Over 60% of India’s population depends on agricultural land to sustain themselves. At an average one hectare of land supports five people. For large parts of this population, especially tribals and scheduled castes, access to this land is problematic; most don’t have proper land tenure or when they do, the land gets taken away for developmental projects. Every video made by our correspondents on this issue is an attempt to correct this historic wrong. We want you to be part of the process that brings the millions of farmers of India their rights.
VV-PACS Correspondent Kailash has been working with and documenting the struggles of such communities in Madhya Pradesh for the past few years. Today he reports on how farmers in Thonga village of Sidhi district have been trying to claim rights for the land they’ve been farming on.
For nearly a decade, Dharampal Singh and 14 others in this village have been cultivating on forest land they had taken over. This now is their only source of a meagre income. Despite multiple requests and attempts to secure paperwork and official records, the community has not been acknowledged as owners of the land.
The land in Thonga comes under the Forest Rights Act 2006. This makes those living on it de-facto owners of the land and should have records stating this. When the law was passed in 2006 many started the process of getting these rights but till date 53% of the 2.8 million claims made have been rejected. At present then, Dharampal and his friends are mere encroachers on the land. Because of this, they don’t have access to any government subsidies that are available to farmers in the country nor to other benefits like housing and MGNREGA schemes.
“Because our financial situation isn’t good, we haven’t been able to improve the condition of our lives” says Dharampal.
This story is an oft-repeated one across India and increasingly movements and organisations are taking up the campaign to reverse this. Ekta Parishad, and DFID-PACS, organisations with which Kailash is also associated, has been at the forefront of this campaign in Madhya Pradesh. In 2012, the civil society movement they lead was finally able to get the government of India to commit to formulating a national land reform policy. The battle ahead is still long.
You can help these farmers secure their rights and can help them secure a better future. Pick up the phone now and make a call and make a difference.
Call to Action: Please call Ashok Kumar Bhargav, the District Collector on 0925141835 and ask him to ensure that people get their land rights immediately.
Read more: Rights Without Benefits (Down to Earth)
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.