Road to Freedom
A UNDP-Ministry of Justice partnership has enabled poor, tribal communities in the Kalahandi district of Odisha to secure land rights and access entitlements under government schemes.
- Six Land Rights Resource Centres in partnership with Antodaya have been set-up
- The Centres have increased awareness of tribal communities on land rights and entitlements and the Right to Information Act
- Between 2009 and 2012 more than 2,800 applications under the Forest Rights Act have been supported by these Centres between 2009-2012
After a 13-year-long battle against encroachers, Singhram Chataria is finally now able to cultivate paddy on his own land. Supported by the Land Rights Clinic in his village, Singhram submitted a petition in the district court to reclaim his land, which had been illegally occupied by a powerful landlord in the village. He won and says, “I am happy that I got back my land. I can now plan for my family’s future.”
Forty-year-old Singhram Chataria from Labanipur village in Junagarh Block in Kalahandi district lost his land in the aftermath of the devastating Odisha floods in 1999. After a long pursuit, he was allotted a small plot of land under the state government’s Landless Scheme. However, this was soon illegally occupied by a local landlord. For Singhram, a member of the Dalit (lower caste) community and the head of a family of eight, this turned into a long battle for justice.
In May 2010, Singhram approached the Land Rights Resource Centre set up in the neighbouring village of Badaldei. Six such Centres in two blocks - Thuamul Rampur and Junagarh, in Kalahandi district, have been set up as a result of a UNDP-Ministry of Justice, Government of India partnership. In collaboration with Antodaya in Kalahandi, these Centres enable poor and marginalized communities to effectively exercise their rights and seek justice.
These Centres seek to address a key challenge faced by tribal communities, i.e. land alienation by helping them become more aware of their rights and legal entitlements, and seek redressal of grievances. These Centers are also hubs for helping citizens use the Right to Information Act, providing counseling, arranging awareness programmes, organizing mobile RTI clinics in remote villages and regularly engaging with communities in these areas.
Between 2009 and 2012, these Centres supported more than 2,800 applications made by individuals and communities under the Forest Rights Act. Over 1600 of these claims have been accepted, leading to the allocation of land for many tribal families and communities. In addition, the Centres are supporting 448 applications for allocation of revenue land to families.
According to Dillip Das, Chairman of ANTODAYA, “When there is a lack of clarity on land ownership, common property resources are occupied by influential people and development induced land alienation has been more common. We need to ensure livelihood security of people in rural and tribal Odisha.”