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Archives for : Madhya Pradesh

MDG Report 2014: India among worst performers in poverty reduction, maternal death and sanitation

Author(s): Moushumi Sharma 
Date:Jul 9, 2014

Report shows good progress in areas like poverty alleviation and access to clean water and controlling diseases like TB, Malaria

imageSome MDG targets, such as increasing access to sanitation and reducing child and maternal mortality are unlikely to be met before the deadline

The United Nations (UN) released this week the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report, 2014. The report, launched by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, says that many of the development goals have been met or are within reach by 2015.

The report is the latest finding to assess the regional progress towards the eight developmental goals that the UN targets to achieve by 2015, including eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Progress slow but target possible
Ban Ki-moon has lauded the progress so far, saying that many global MDG targets have already been met. The report states that extreme poverty in the world has reduced by half; over 2.3 million people gained access to clean drinking water between 1990 and 2012; gender disparities in school enrollment in developing nations have been eliminated to a large extent; and political participation of women has increased. The report maintains that if the current trend of progress continues, the world might surpass MDG targets on malaria, tuberculosis and access to HIV treatment. An estimated 3.3 million deaths from malaria could be averted between 2000 and 2012 due to substantial expansion of malaria intervention programmes, while intensive efforts to fight tuberculosis have saved an estimated 22 million lives worldwide since 1995.

But it is too soon to celebrate. According to the report, some MDG targets, such as reducing child and maternal mortality and increasing access to sanitation, are unlikely to be met before the deadline.

India’s dismal performance
India’s progress has been below the mark on the parameters of poverty, child and maternal mortality and access to improved sanitation. In 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extremely poor (32.9 per cent) lived in India alone. The poverty figures for the same year for Nigeria and Bangladesh, two countries less developed than India, were 8.9 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.

A recent study by an international non-profit ranked India 137th among 178 countries when it comes to maternal and child health, categorising the country among the worst performers (Read: India among worst performers in maternal and child health). The UN report states that India had the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children in the country dying before age five. This is shameful when one takes into account notable reductions in the under-five mortality rate since 1990 and particularly since 2000 in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.

While the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, India still accounts for 17 per cent of maternal deaths. India’s MMR target for 2015 is to bring down maternal mortality to less than 109 deaths per 100,000 live births. But only three states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra—have so far been successful in reaching this target (Read: India nowhere near millennium goal for maternal mortality.

The UN report further states that MMR in developing regions—230 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013—was 14 times higher than that of developed regions, which recorded only 16 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the same year. It maintains that the best possible way of reducing neonatal mortality is through greater investment in maternal care during the first 24 hours after birth.

Scourge of open defecation
Between 1990 and 2012, two billion people worldwide gained access to improved sanitation, but a billion people still defecate in the open. A vast majority of the world’s population—82 per cent—resorting to open defecation live in middle-income, populous countries like India and Nigeria.

Official data on open defecation in India will put any country to shame. The country has the world’s largest population that defecates in the open. (Read: Mission possible. According to data released by the National Sample Survey Office in December 2013, 59.4 per cent of the rural population resorted to open defecation. 2011 Census figures put the number of rural houses without toilets at 113 million.

To make matters worse for the country’s reputation, a recent study conducted by the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, Uttar Pradesh, claims that in 40 per cent of rural households in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, which have a functional toilet, at least one member chose to defecate in the open. At least 30 per cent of the world’s population, which defecates in the open, live in these five states alone (Read: Despite having toilets at home, many in rural India choose to defecate in open.

Hope for the future
Presenting the report, Ban Ki-moon said that the world is “at a historic juncture, with several milestones before us”. He underscored that the report makes clear “the MDGs have helped unite, inspire and transform…and the combined action of governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector can make a difference”. “Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are critical to building a solid foundation for development beyond 2015. At the same time, we must aim for a strong successor framework to attend to unfinished business and address areas not covered by the eight MDGs,” the UN chief said.

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Battle over Narmada River – Gujarat Vs Madhya Pradesh – who suffers ?

A River Runs Through This

The Modi government’s decision to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam asks Madhya Pradesh to sacrifice for a greater common good, mostly of Gujarat, write Neeraj Mishra and Priyanka Kaushal

2014-07-05 , Issue 27 Volume 11


No respite NBA activists remain at the forefront of the agitation against the project, Photo: Tehelka Archives

Narendra Modi has been true to his word: from chief minister of six crore Gujaratis, he has leapfrogged and become the prime minister of six crore Gujaratis. Whatever he does in his following years in office, he has already taken that one momentous decision that will potentially redefine the Centre-state relationship forever. Gujarat will now have the improved 138-metre Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on the Narmada. It will have water for its parched earth and for its insatiable industries. It will divert water from the great perennial river into storage tanks in far-off Rajkot, Jamnagar and Kutch. What nature couldn’t give, Namo has given.

Madhya Pradesh will, meanwhile, have 2.5 lakh displaced known officially as PAPs (project affected persons), 20,882 acres of submerged fertile, riverine, arable land, several villages, towns and habitations lost forever and irreparable environmental damage. Its cities like Jabalpur and Hoshangabad will be prone to earthquakes. Its people will receive compensation but no land in exchange. Forty-five thousand farming families will have to perforce let go of the only occupation that had been theirs for centuries. And all in exchange for 877 MW of power.

Sardar Sarovar and the Statue of Unity

Just before the General Election, the BJP organised programmes like the Run for Unity across the country, promoting the installation of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s gigantic Statue of Unity at Kevadia in Gujarat. Experts connected it to Narendra Modi’s future politics. Political analysts believe that one of the objectives behind it was to more forcefully demand for the increase in the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s height. Hype was built highlighting the dam as the dream project of Sardar Patel.

Set up under Modi’s leadership, the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Trust gives official information about the statue project on its website. According to it, the statue will be a 182-m high structure. The cost of construction is estimated at around Rs 2,500 crore. It will provide a panoramic view of the Sardar Sarovar Project. A US firm, Turner Construction Company, has been awarded the project contracts. Other architect firms involved are Meinhardt Group and Michael Graves & Associates. Modi wants to develop an international-level canal tourist spot along the Narmada from Sardar Sarovar to the sea coast in Bharuch.

Former Madhya Pradesh Congress unit chief Kantilal Bhuriya says, “The Modi government was lauding Sardar Patel as a national figure to promote its own interests of increasing the dam’s height. He has killed two birds with one stone. First, he has met the demands of the people in Gujarat. Second, he has dwarfed Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan politically, and weakened him in his own state.”

While urban India debates the rail fare hike and sugar prices, Delhi University admissions and ironically the monsoons, the one decision that will have the most far-reaching effect on our social and political lives has either not been understood or simply brushed under. The Nehruvian model of “temples of modern India” is decried for another reason, but embraced for the very reason of its existence as the acknowledged source of all life. Now, the deserts of Gujarat will be greened, but did it have to be at the expense of another state? Why could it not become a reality for four decades when both states had different parties ruling them? Will the BJP be able to explain to its constituents in Madhya Pradesh why the bargain is a mint? Will Shivraj Singh Chouhan as chief minister, Uma Bharti as Union water resources minister and Thavarchand Gehlot as Union social justice minister ever be able to explain the circumstances of this decision?

Above all, is there a crying need to increase the height of the dam? To appreciate the very existence of the SSP and the boon and bane it brings with it, one must take a relook at the project, the Narmada Valley, the intention of the Centre and other political issues related to it.

According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam, it is the second largest concrete gravity dam after America’s Grand Coulee. It also has the third largest discharge capacity in the world, with a catchment capacity of 586 million cubic feet. On 12 June, a meeting of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) chaired by the prime minister gave clearance to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam located at Kevadiya in Gujarat, by 17 metres from 121.92 to 138.38 metres. The matter had been on the backburner for several years. Now, 30 radial gates will be installed on the dam at the cost of 270 crore by 2017. It will increase the storage capacity by 9 million cubic feet. Right after the prime minister gave his nod to the project, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel tweeted, congratulating the prime minister on behalf of the people of Gujarat — “Achhe din aa gaye”. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Chouhan tweeted “Kisanon ke saath beinsaafi nahi hone di jayegi(the interests of the farmers will be protected).” Could it be clearer?

Thus, before we go on to discuss the “bure din” of Madhya Pradesh, it is necessary to understand how Gujarat is going to benefit from the project. Seventy-five percent area of Gujarat that falls within the Narmada radius has been declared potentially drought-affected. With an increase in the height of the dam, the state will receive more water from the Narmada and will no longer be in the category of drought-affected areas. Gujarat also stands to gain the most in irrigation. With the Narmada dam, 18.45 lakh hectares of land in 3,112 villages falling under 73 tehsils of 15 districts in Gujarat will receive water for irrigation. The dam will also safeguard 210 villages of Bharuch from the danger of floods while water from it will change the face of Saurashtra. One-hundred- and-fifteen minor dams and water bodies of Saurashtra will receive water from the dam. The water scarcity problem of Saurashtra, which receives below average rainfall, will also be resolved. One-hundred-and-fifty-one cities and 9,633 villages (53 percent of 18,144 villages of the state) will have drinking water. Gujarat will also receive 16 percent of 1,450 MW power generated by the dam. In short, it is a win-win scenario for Gujarat.

Little surprise then that Gujarat has been preparing for this day for the past five years. Its one major canal network is ready to fetch water to its towns. It has already prioritised drinking water projects by floating a pipeline project worth 5,000 crore, which will take water from Kevadia to storage tanks in Rajkot. Its steel and chemical industries will receive almost 20 percent of the stored water at the SSP, which is against the tenets of the project itself which bars its use for any purpose other than drinking and irrigation. The limping steel industries have already received major orders. For instance, Essar Steel at Hazira will supply 1.2 lakh metric tonnes of 12-metre diameter pipelines for the project. The project to link the SSP to Rajkot will be finished in one year’s time from iron ore mined from Chhattisgarh.

raisingAs stated above, in this Faustian exchange, Madhya Pradesh will get 877 MW of power. True that the state is struggling with a power deficit and needs additional supply of electricity. But drought-affected areas, dearth of irrigation water and lack of drinking water are also existing realities in the state. The project has completely ignored drought-affected areas of the state. One-hundred-and-ninety-three villages, including Dharampuri of Dhar district, are on the verge of submergence.

According to a census conducted in 2001, 51,000 families in all three states were declared affected, which shot up to 63,000 in 2011 with 45,000 families from Madhya Pradesh alone. They mostly included BPL families of tribals, small farmers, shopkeepers, fishermen, and others.

Madhya Pradesh PCC president Arun Yadav says that the displaced have not been rehabilitated. Rehabilitation has come to a standstill because of an investigation into corruption cases. Families of the submergence area are struggling for livelihood after whatever initial amounts they had received have been used up. Yadav makes another allegation that the decision to increase the height of the dam is a violation of the orders of Supreme Court and Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT). He points out that in their respective orders, they have clearly directed to begin construction after rehabilitation. According to Yadav, a judgment passed by the Narmada Control Authority in December 1979 states that Madhya Pradesh will have 29 big, 135 medium and 3,000 small irrigation projects by 2024. If the state is unable to use its share of Narmada water within the set period, it will be denied its right over the river. However, the state government is not serious about the Narmada irrigation projects. Till now, only 10 major projects have been completed, two are underway, while work is yet to begin on as many as 17 projects.

In comparison, Gujarat has only 19 villages and 9,000 hectares of land falling in the submergence area. In Maharashtra, a comparatively minor stakeholder in the project, 9,500 hectares of forest land and 22 villages will be affected. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists, who have been resisting the projects for long, allege that only 30 families have received land for rehabilitation, while the process of giving land to the rest of the 3,000 families has hit a brick wall because of corruption. They showed fake registries in order to illegally seize land from its rightful owners. NBA activists allege that government officials tied up with brokers and forged thousands of registries. To probe the matter of fake registries, the Madhya Pradesh High Court set up the Justice SS Jha Commission in 2008. The investigation is under process. The commission’s investigation is centred upon matters of fake registries, i.e., families yet to get land, houses plot allotments and reallotment, corruption in disbursal of livelihood grants to landless, manipulations in eligibility-lists, quality versus expenses in construction work at resettlement and rehabilitation sites. The commission is expected to submit its report by October.

Former Madhya Pradesh irrigation minister and an acknowledged expert on Narmada, Ramchandra Singh Deo, 78, says that all the projects on the Narmada river, including Sardar Sarovar, are based upon doubtful figures. Projects in the Narmada Valley started with data collected by the British using the old method. The method used rainwater to gauge water availability in rivers. According to data collected by the British government, Narmada had 27 million acre feet (MAF) water. However, data collected later based upon the new method of river gauging station reveals that the river has only 23.7 MAF water. It means the very foundation of the project is based on incorrect figures. The Madhya Pradesh government questioned the availability of water in Narmada several times, but no one paid heed. The second important point is that the whole of Narmada basin is earthquake-prone. Construction of huge dams has increased the danger manifold. The frequency of shock-waves hitting areas surrounding Bargi dam near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh has also shot up. The town has already had a major earthquake in 1997. Singh Deo says that although Sardar Sarovar is an earthquake-resistant dam, the intensity of the quakes can have far-reaching effect. All the major dam projects underway in the Narmada Valley have a lifespan of only 100-250 years after which period they become a nuisance. No one seems to worry about the age of big dams.

The controversy is not new

The official announcement for construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam was made in 1960 when the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid its foundation stone. The project has since become a hornet’s nest raking up controversy every now and then. Initially, the project remained in the pipeline because the three states involved (Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra) could not build consensus on water sharing. The matter was handed over to the NWDT in 1979 where a consensus was finally reached. In the 1990s, the World Bank decided to give a loan for the project, but people from the submergence area started protesting against the venture. In 1991-94, the World Bank set up a high-level committee for the first time to review the project. The committee found that the environmental damage caused by the project will be irreparable. So, the World Bank backed out. NBA activists filed a PIL in the Supreme Court demanding stoppage of construction. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that construction of the dam should be limited till the point where rehabilitation has taken place. NBA, protesting against the project, has been alleging that it ignored the environmental damage caused and rehabilitation of the displaced has not been achieved. With a decision to increase the dam’s height further, the hornet’s nest has been stirred up yet again. Locals from areas like Dhar, Badwani, Nimad and the hills of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh have come out on the roads to protest in large numbers.

The dam of politics

The SSP has several political repercussions. While Modi and his Gujarat are bound to profit from the project, the three BJP bigwigs of Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan, Uma Bharti and Thavarchand Gehlot, have their political careers at stake. Chouhan has largely avoided commenting upon the issue for fear of upsetting the PMO. When the decision to increase the dam’s height was taken, he was away in South Africa looking for investors to promote various new developmental projects in his state. He instantly tweeted, welcoming Modi’s move. He also tweeted that his state would get power at no cost. But the moment he landed in Bhopal and realised the public mood, his tone changed before the media. He told television channels that no injustice will be done to the displaced and the Supreme Court’s directives will be followed. He forgot his tweet that said “The displaced have already been compensated in 2008. No other region is going to be immediately submerged now.” Chouhan seems to have failed to understand that a contradictory stand on such a sensitive issue is going to be the biggest stumbling block in his political career.

Uma Bharti, Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, is second in line to bear the brunt. A native of Madhya Pradesh, she must be aware of the status of rehabilitation in her state. Despite this, she gave a statement that a sanction to increase the dam’s height has been given keeping in mind the displaced people and the social justice ministry is satisfied with the steps taken for them. Uma’s approval of the decision to increase the dam’s height as water resources minister is going to hurt her political aspirations. Supporting a project that is going to benefit Madhya Pradesh in no way will give her critics a reason to pounce at her. Since the entire story is being scripted with reference to the social justice ministry, it is certainly not in favour of Thavarchand Gehlot, who is currently holding the portfolio and is a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh. Gehlot is expected to have witnessed the plight of the displaced people at close quarters. But his department has become the scapegoat to advocate for the increase in the height of the dam. Such a scenario renders him equally guilty. In the coming days, the three of them will pay a heavy political price for supporting the cause.

Win-win situation for Modi

Modi has a threefold advantage with the increase in the dam’s height. First, he has proved how unconditionally supportive he is of his state. While he was the CM, he kept demanding an increase in the height of the dam. In 2006, he even went on a fast for 51 hours at Kevadia. His decision has increased his popularity in Gujarat. Both the Congress and the BJP in Gujarat have openly welcomed the decision. He has also tried to bring Maharashtra and Rajasthan into the loop as Maharashtra faces Assembly polls later this year. The project is going to benefit Maharashtra too as 27 percent of 1,450 MW power generated by the dam will be supplied to the state. Thirty-seven-thousand-and-five-hundred hectares in the hilly areas of Maharashtra will get water for irrigation. The dam will quench the thirst of 4.58 million people of Rajasthan too. An increase in the height of the dam will release water to Rajasthan with more pressure, which will boost irrigation of over two lakh hectares arid land of Barmer and Jalore. Besides, three cities of Rajasthan and 1,336 villages will have access to drinking water. This has helped Modi emerge as a hero in these three states.

According to Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam Corporation Ltd managing director JN Singh, “The moment permission was granted for the installation of radial gates at the dam, CM Anandiben Patel performed puja at the dam site and flagged off massive work. After monsoon, work will gain momentum.”

The allegations of NBA

NBA leader Medha Patkar tells TEHELKA, “The Sardar Sarovar Project has completely overlooked the rights of the displaced people. Why are the state and the Central government in such a hurry to increase the height of the dam? It is beyond comprehension. In the past 30 years, not even 30 percent of canal projects have been completed. Gujarat’s Kutch and Saurashtra will have no immediate irrigation gain with the increase in the dam’s height.” Patkar further adds, “It should be noted that the farmers are unwilling to hand over their land to the Gujarat government. Where will the government then make canals? The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that work can continue only till the point where rehabilitation has happened. But rehabilitation has not been carried out in any of the affected states. Therefore, the decision to increase the dam’s height is a clear violation of the Supreme Court order.”

In 2012, the Planning Commission had estimated the cost of the project at Rs 70,000 crore. Patkar claims that Rs 63,000 crore has already been spent and it is going to amount to Rs 90,000 crore. “We have even written to PM Modi relating facts about the project to him,” she says. “It is a matter of life and death for lakhs of people. The government is answerable. The moment the gates are installed, back water level will increase. As a result, the places marked under submergence area, will be flooded. The situation will worsen in the rainy season.”

Digvijaya Singh’s stance

Former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya Singh, who cleverly held off Gujarat’s ambitions during his 10-year reign in the 1990s, says, “The decision to increase the height of the dam is shocking. It is clearly against the wishes and past orders of the Supreme Court, which stipulated that rehabilitation should be given priority. Another thing is that the social justice ministry is responsible for monitoring the rehabilitation process. It must release a statement explaining how far rehabilitation has happened. The question is not merely of compensation for the displaced. They should be given land in exchange of land. If the government does not have enough land to give to the displaced people, they must be given additional money to purchase land elsewhere.”

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Timeline of a struggle

July 1993
After seven years of research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences presents its paper on people displaced from the Narmada Valley due to the Sardar Sarovar Dam construction. The paper states that rehabilitation is a major problem. It talks of the need to stop construction work and think the project over

August 1993
The Government of India sets up a five-member committee headed by the adviser to the Planning Commission in irrigation matters for project assessment

December 1993
The Ministry of Environment and Forests notifies that the Sardar Sarovar Project had violated environment-related laws

January 1994
Massive protests force the then prime minister Narasimha Rao to stop construction

March 1994
The then Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Digvijaya Singh, writes a letter to the prime minister, urging his intervention in the matter. He writes that the state government did not have enough means to carry out rehabilitation at such a large scale

April 1994
In its annual report, the World Bank claims that rehabilitation of people displaced from the Sardar Sarovar Project was not being carried out properly

July 1994
The five-member committee submits its report, but it could not be released due to the Supreme Court’s order. In the same month, 10 people die after drinking contaminated water at different rehabilitation centres

November-December 1994
Narmada Bachao Andolan begins its protest in Bhopal against resumption of construction work at the site

December 1994
A committee comprising Madhya Pradesh MLAs surveys the rehabilitation project and discovers massive swindling in it

January 1995
The Supreme Court orders the report of the five-member committee to be released. In addition, it orders a study to determine the appropriate height of the dam

March 1995
In one of its reports, the World Bank admits that the Sardar Sarovar Project poses serious challenge

June 1995
Gujarat government announces a new colossal Kalpasar Project on the Narmada

November 1995
The Supreme Court grants permission to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project

Under the leadership of Medha Patkar, protests and demonstrations continue at different dam sites demanding proper rehabilitation and land

April 1997
Displaced people from Maheshwar Project take out a procession in Mandleswar in which 2,500 people take part. They question the rehabilitation policies of the government as well as the dam construction company S Kumars

October 1997
Dam construction gains momentum despite protests

January 1998
The government announces a review of the project and work is halted

April 1998
Construction resumes. Locals violate prohibitory orders and carry out demonstrations at the dam site. Police lathicharge protesters and use teargas shells

May-July 1998
People blockade roads to stop construction material from reaching the dam site

November 1998
A grand public meeting is held under the leadership of Baba Amte and a series of such meetings continue till April 1999

December 1999
A massive public meeting is organised in New Delhi in which thousands of displaced people take part

June 2014
After the recent announcement to increase the height by 17 m, people in Badwani, Anjad, Kukshi, Manawar and Dharampuri of Madhya Pradesh are holding large-scale protests

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Compensate farmers for crop loss: High Court

FPJ — By Our Staff Reporter,  June 25, 2014 01:55 am

Indore : In a major relief to farmers affected by incomplete canal work of Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar projects, Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court on Tuesday ruled that the farmers are facing crop loss for last few years due to water-logging and dumping of muck be compensated at the earliest.“The compensation amounts should be given as the provision of new Land Acquisition Act of 2014,” said a double bench of Chief Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Shantanu Kemkar while hearing a case filed against incomplete canal works.

The court passed this order on suggestion report submitted by Narmada Bachoa Andolan leader Medha Patkar and officials of Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA).

About 1.46 lakh hectare land is affected due to incomplete canal work of Omkareshwar project and about 1.30 lakh hectare land due to incomplete canal work of Indira Sagar project.

On being informed that the projects do not have disaster management plan (DMP), the court instructed the NVDA to come up with detailed DMP.

The court also directed NVDA to share micro plan of Command Area Development (CAD) with the local villagers within a week time and incorporate the suggestions.

Identify water logging areas

The court directed NVDA to carryout identify villages facing serious water logging. The NVDA has been directed to carryout inspections in the villages along with NBA activists and villagers from June 26 and suggest what to be done to control the rain woes during the coming monsoon. During the hearing Patkar raised the issue of menace of malaria in the Narmada Valley due to water-logging caused following incomplete canal works. The HC directed NVDA to prepare detail malaria plan before upcoming monsoon and strictly monitor the epidemic and take required action.

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#India – Tribal communities mobilise to save ancient forests

Tribal communities fight development plans that threaten survival of celebrated Mahan forests in Madhya Pradesh state.

Last updated: 15 Jun 2014

Locals allege that environmental clearance was granted on the basis of a forged resolution [Shuriah Niazi/Al Jazeera]

Singrauli, India – Tribal people living in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are in the vanguard of last ditch efforts to save the famous Mahan forests from being wiped out.

They say that construction of a power plant under a joint venture between two private companies – Essar and Hindalco – would lead to the destruction of the oldest and the largest salwood forests in Asia.

Campaigners are now resisting the plans in Singrauli district – India’s energy capital, supplying 10 percent of the country’s coal – and asserting rights to the forests that provide sustenance to more than 60 villages.

“We know that justice has not been done with these people”, Priya Pillai, a senior campaigner with Greenpeace India, told Al Jazeera. “The government has given clearance for mining without even thinking about thousands of people who depend on these forests.”

Coal venture

The London-listed multinational conglomerate Essar and the Indian aluminium group Hindalco came together in 2006 to form a $8bn joint venture, Mahan Coal Limited, to exploit coal seams in the area granted to them by the government to supply two large power plants.

We know that justice has not been done with these people; the government has given clearance for mining without even thinking about thousands of people who depend on these forests

Priya Pillai, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India,

However, the coal mining will displace residents of at least 14 villages dependent on the Mahan forests for natural produce, including mahua, tendu leaves and karanj that are crucial to their livelihoods.

“We collect mahua and tendu from forest as non-timber forest produce and then sell them in the market. This way we are fully dependent on the forest round-the-year”, said Kanti Prasad, a local resident from Amelia village.

“How can we leave it? We will ultimately die without these forests”.

The mining is also expected to result in the felling of about 400,000 trees crucial to the area’s ecological balance and to destroy an important corridor between wildlife habitats. According to the Global Register of Migratory Species, over 102 migratory species are present in the area.

Residents have formed the group Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) to resist the multinationals’ plans and to assert their rights to the forest in a campaign that has now extended to the state capital Bhopal and New Delhi.

“The mining in the area will render us homeless and make basic amenities like water scarce” said Ujiraj Singh Khairwar, a resident of Amelia, the village that will be worst affected by the mining.

“We have been dependent on the forest for generations. How can we leave it at once and move to other places?”

Earlier this month supporters of MSS and Greenpeace activists were arrested after moving into the forest area to prevent trees being marked for felling by company officials.

Harish Singh, a local resident, told Al Jazeera: “We are ready to give our lives for these forests. Ultimately we will die if these forests are destroyed for mining. We cannot go anywhere else.”

“We wanted the government to be sympathetic towards our demands and not to behave the way they have been doing. We still believe that our fight will continue and bear fruitful results.”

Rejection overturned

In 2011 former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh initially rejected the plans, stating: “The coal block is undoubtedly in a biodiversity-rich area. It will destroy good natural forest cover and interfere with wildlife habitats.”

The coal mining will displace residents of at least 14 villages [Shuriah Niazi/Al Jazeera]

However, the application was later granted in principle on the condition that studies were carried out, before gaining final approval in February this year from the then Environment Minister Veerappa Moily.

Locals allege that clearance was granted on the basis of a forged resolution by a special village council meeting in Amelia on March 6 last year attended by only 184 people. The copy of the resolution shows 1,125 signatures – which villagers claim may have been forged.

In February MSS filed a petition with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) – which resolves disputes over environmental protection and forest conservation – challenging the forest clearance granted for the Mahan coal block.

This week, the Madhya Pradesh state government gave an undertaking to the NGT that there will be no felling of trees in Mahan until October.

Ramakant Tiwari, the chief executive of Mahan Coal Limited, told Al Jazeera that the company had obtained all the necessary permissions for forest clearance from the environment ministry, approvals for mining from the coal ministry, and the backing of the local state administration.

“We intend to make the project operational soon and from now onwards we expect the project to progress” he said.

However, the company could face another hurdle if the Singrauli district administration seeks another round of consent from villagers.

The village council could be asked to vote on the project a second time in the wake of the allegation that the earlier consent was forged.

Singrauli Collector M Selvendran, the district’s chief administrative and revenue officer, said: “The law will take its own course. We respect the law and hope that all the parties would also do the same.”


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A tale of one project and four states

The fracas around the Polavaram project suggests de-bottlenecking inter-state infrastructure might be harder than expected

Aman Sethi  

 Last Updated at 21:46 IST

The first day of the 16th Lok Sabha was marked by protests by members of Parliament from Telangana, India’s newest state. Placard-wielding MPs from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) took to the Well of the House to object theAndhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) ordinance, drafted by the outgoing United Progressive Alliance.

The TRS was joined by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Odisha’s ruling party, in opposing the ordinance, which transfers a portion of the proposed submergence zone of the Polavaram irrigation project from Telangana to Andhra Pradesh to ease clearances for the project.

According to a Press Trust of India report, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has urged the government to implement thePolavaram project, .

The protests over the ordinance offer an insight into the legal and political specificities of the many infrastructurebottlenecks the new government has promised to resolve by hastening clearances. The stand-off between Andhra Pradesh and the three states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh points to the difficulties of inter-linking rivers near or across inter-state boundaries.

Section 90 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014, notifying the creation of Telangana, grants Polavaram national project status and states “consent for Polavaram Irrigation Project shall be deemed to have been given by the successor state of Telangana”. TRS sources said they would contest this assertion.

The Indirasagar Polavaram project has attracted controversy since Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh signed an agreement for its construction in 1978. The project is designed to irrigate 291,000 hectares, provide drinking water and industrial water supply to Visakhapatnam, generate 960 Mw of power and inter-link the Krishna-Godavari basin.

Lack of funding and clearances meant the project was dormant for many years, before being revived by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YSR Reddy. Current Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has often highlighted the benefits of the project and sought its speedy implementation.

By granting Polavaram national project status, the Union government has committed to financing 90 per cent of the project cost of ~16,010.45 crore and taken responsibility for all clearances, compensation and rehabilitation work.

While the governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh have filed suits in the Supreme Court to halt dam construction, activists have questioned the need for a dam that will displace about two million people, 80 per cent of whom belong to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Classes, according to a Supreme Court-appointed committee.

Tribal affairs minister Jual Oram, an adivasi from Odisha, has said, “I will extend full support to whatever stand the state government takes over the Polavaram issue if it is in the interest of Odisha,” he said at a press conference in Bhubaneswar this week.

“The land-transfer ordinance is unprecedented in the history of dam construction in this country,” said R Vidyasagar Rao, ex-chief engineer of the Central Water Commission and irrigation advisor to the TRS. “When the Sardar Sarovar Dam was built, was the submergence zone in Madhya Pradesh transferred to Gujarat?”

Unlike many river disputes, the Polavaram conflict isn’t premised on water-sharing, but on the submergence of land in Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. “River water between these states was allocated by the Bachawat award on the basis of various projects on these river basins,” said T Hanumantha Rao, former engineer-in-chief of Andhra Pradesh, “Telangana will get water from irrigation projects on its land, while Andhra will get water from its own projects.”

Rao has proposed substituting the single dam and reservoir by three barrages to regulate river flow, as well as mini hydel stations to generate power. This “step-ladder” design, Rao said, would reduce the submergence area and hasten clearances. The Central Water Commission, however, turned down his proposal, saying the limited storage offered by the barrages meant the project wouldn’t provide enough water or electricity.

According to a 2009 environmental impact assessment prepared for the Andhra government, Polavaram and its reservoir will need 52,623.91 hectares; Chhattisgarh will lose 795.59 hectares, of which 0.16 are forest land, and Odisha will lose 648.05 hectares (102.16 hectares of forest land).

In court, the Chhattisgarh and Odisha governments have said submergence in their respective states would be much higher than claimed by the Andhra Pradesh government. Both governments maintain public hearings haven’t been held in their states, a violation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act.

While the project secured a clearance from the environment ministry in 2005, this was overturned by the National Environment Appellate Authority in 2007.

“It is unusual for the Centre to accord ‘national status’ to a project that hasn’t secured environment and forest clearances yet and for which tribal laws have not been complied with,” said former Union Power Secretary E A S Sarma, who has tracked the project. He added a project precondition to provide each displaced tribal family land-for-land within the irrigated area downstream of the project must be followed.

“To legislate on ‘deemed consent’ by the successor Telangana government amounts to misuse of the legislative process for the sake of expediency. The Centre thought Telengana’s opposition to the project could be reduced by transferring the mandals under submergence to Andhra Pradesh, but it was a short-sighted response,” he said.

In the meantime, TRS MP Sitaram Naik has approached the Supreme Court to overturn the most recent ordinance. Officials in Odisha and Chhattisgarh said they were following the events in Parliament and preparing for a summer of litigation. Read mor ehere –

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MP – 4 Rapes in 24 hrs, two minors raped in Sidhi, Betul #Vaw #WTFnews


TNN | Jun 15, 2014, 08.50 AM IST

BHOPAL: Home minister Babulal Gaur’s recent statement saying rapes cannot be stopped seems to be coming true in Madhya Pradesh as four incidents of rapes were reported from across the state on Saturday. Two cases were about minor girls aged 9 and 11 being raped.

Even as the focus on rapes and murders are on Uttar Pradesh, government and administration in MP too appear unable to prevent such incidents.

In the first incident, an 11-year-old girl was gang-raped by three minors at Fulwari village in Sidhi district on June 12. Survivour informed her parents on Friday and subsequently a complaint was filed. All three accused aged between 11 and 14 have been arrested and sent to juvenile home.

Police officials told TOI, survivour was grazing cattle when accused trio apprehended her. They took her to a desolate spot and took turns to rape her and fled. Following the complaint, medical tests of the girl were conducted and accused were arrested, police said.

The second incident is about a 9-year-old girl being raped by a 32-year-old man at Kamath village in Betul district on Saturday. The accused was caught by locals who later handed him over to police. Accused Bhojraj, 32, a resident of Patel ward of Multai town raped the minor while she was alone at home.

“Bhojraj, a carpenter was looking for job in survivour’s neighbourhood and finding the girl alone at home her mother left for some work, accused took advantage of the situation and raped the minor,” Betul SP Sudhir V Laad told TOI.

On her return, survivour’s mother found the accused in a compromising position and raised an alarm. “Hearing her screams, locals rushed to the spot and caught Bhojraj. He was then handed over to police,” said Laad. Accused has been booked under Section 376 (rape) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant Sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, said Laad.

In the third incident a 21-year-old woman had complained that she has been sexually exploited by her father since 2006 in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. A case was filed on Saturday by the survivour who was accompanied by her aunt at Amjhera police station of Dhar in the evening.

Amjhera police station in charge Anita Derwal told TOI, complainant has alleged that her father was raping her since 2006. She became pregnant in April 2014 and her father got her pregnancy medically terminated. “We’ve registered a case under Sections 376 (rape), 313 (causing miscarriage without consent) and 315 (act done to prevent child being born alive) of IPC. A search has been launched to nab the girl’s rape 55-year-old father, who is on the run,” Derwal added.

The complainant alleged that her mother died in 2000, while grandmother passed away in 2003, leaving her and two younger brothers to be looked after by their father, a mason. Since 2006, he started raping her and threatened to kill her if she made the matter public.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old woman was sexually exploited by her computer teacher in Kolaras town of Shivpuri district for more than a year. The survivor had joined computer coaching classes in 2011. Accused Bhupendra Tomar, 35, uploaded objectionable pictures of the woman on social networking sites after she refused to visit his institute after she got married.

Tomar was charged under sections for rape, SC/ST Act (prevention of atrocities) and IT Act

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#India – Teenager rapes 62 year old woman in Madhya Pradesh #Vaw #WTFnews

Bhopal, January 12, 2014 | UPDATED 04:23 IST

A teenage boy allegedly raped a 62-year-old woman in Domra village under Rahat Gaon police station in the district, police said on Saturday.

The 17-year-old boy has been arrested for the incident that took place on Friday.

The old woman had filed a rape complaint against the teenager from the same village and police registered a case after a medical report confirmation, Timarni Subdivisional Officer of Police, Shesh Narayan Tiwari told reporters.

The boy sexually assaulted the woman at her house, police said adding that he was booked under various sections of the IPC.

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Dalit organizations launch 120 day long Bhoomi Adhikar Yatra for land rights in MP

2 January 2014 –

By Staff Reporter,

Sidhi, MP: While most of the people bid adieu to the bygone year and welcomed the New Year with lavish parties, hundreds of Dalits and Adivasis decided to make a new beginning on the first day of the year by launching Bhoomi Adhikar Yatra, a campaign for land rights in Madhya Pradesh under the banner of National Confederation of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR) with the slogan of ‘Marching for Land for Livelihood and Dignity’.

On January 1, 2014, hundreds of Dalit, Adivasi women and men gathered under their respective banner of Rashtriya Dalit Mahasabha and Adivasi Adhikar Andolan at Ambedkar Chowk at the district headquarter of District Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh to jointly launched their Bhoomi Adhikar Yatra (Land Right March).



They demanded 5 acres land for each landless Dalit, Adivasi and poor and land titles to those who possess lands but never given titles.

The 120 day long Bhoomi Adhikar Yatra, which began on bicycles, will cover more than a thousand villages in 20 districts of Madhya Pradesh before its convergence in Bhoomi Adhikar Sammelan on 9th June in Bhopal, the capital of the Madhya Pradesh.

Ashok Bharti, chairman of NACDOR said while speaking to TCN on the occasion, “Only 3% land belongs to SC/STs while their population is 36%. The motive behind this yatra is to get the attention of the government and the policy makers sitting in the Centre and make them aware of this very need of the hour.”

In India, close to 70% of its population is dependent on land and agriculture for their livelihood, dignity and food security. India, close to 70% of its population is dependent on land and agriculture for their livelihood, dignity and food security. Out of 137.76 milions of operational land holding in the country, Madhya Pradesh has 8.87 million ha lands, of which only 0.45 million ha is owned by Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe.

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#India – Woman agrees to return home , after husband promises toilet facility


PTI  Indore, December 25, 201
A pro-household toilet slogan
According to a report, more than 70 per cent families have no access to toilets in Madhya Pradesh. (For representation only)

A 27-year-old dalit woman has agreed to return to her husband‘s home at a village in Dewas district, after he promised before a court to get a proper toilet constructed at his place.

Savita, who got married to Mundlaana village resident Devkaran Malviya (30) about seven years back, left her husband’s home along with her two children three years ago and went to live with her parents as she felt a sense of shame at being forced to answer the nature’s call in the open.

Later, she filed a case in a local court seeking monthly maintenance from her husband. During the course of the case, it came to light that she had a dispute with her husband over their being no proper toilet facility in his house.

She told the magistrate court recently that she would not go to her husband’s home unless a proper toilet was built there.

Devkaran has assured the court that he would ensure a proper toilet at his home before January 10, which is the next date of hearing in the case.

The woman has agreed to return to her husband’s home after he ensures proper toilet facilities.

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#India – Tribal rights without benefits #mustread

A special lid allows non-biodegradable objects like plastic bottles to be flushed out. The excreta enters through a separate opening into  the digester tank

Over 1.3 million tribals and forest dwellers have got rights over the land they had been using for years under the Forest Rights Act. This can, in some way, be called contemporary India’s largest land regime change—from the forest administration to the rightful owners of forestland. The Act promises another bounty—access to government schemes. But six years after the Act was enforced, lives of the forest dwellers have not changed much. Not one state has initiated concrete steps to officially register the title holders in the state land records. Without this they remain what they used to be—officially non-existent.

Ahead of the general elections in 2014, Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava,Aparna PallaviM Suchitra and Richard Mahapatra travel to the forest districts of Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh to assess the impact of the landmark legislation

Owning a piece of the planet is overwhelming. For Lange Manjhi, resident of Jurakhaman village in Odisha’s Kalahandi district, it is much more than that. He grew up in the forest village and cultivated the land he inherited from his father. But he had no legal right over it. Rather, he was called an encroacher. And an encroacher has no right over government’s development schemes. He cannot even sell his paddy to government agencies, forget about getting government loan to invest in his farm.

So he felt liberated in June 2010 when the Odisha government recognised his land rights and gave him title certificates, or pattas, under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. That month, the state gave titles to 54 families over 146 hectares (ha) in Jurakhaman. Development has started to show in Jurakhaman. Its landscape speaks of the changes FRA has brought in. Of the 54 families, 24 got money from the government to build houses under the Indira Awaas Yojana.

Whether it is Andhra Pradesh’s Amrabad villageWhether it is Andhra Pradesh’s Amrabad village (seen in pic) or villages in other states with considerable forest cover and forest communities like Odisha or Madhya Pradesh, FRA implementation has been similar. Some forest dwellers have got land titles, some are waiting for it, but most are yet to reap the benefits of development schemes (Photo: M Suchitra)

Under the horticulture department’s programme, many have mango trees in their farms, a future money earner. A new lift irrigation project irrigates 24 ha of 14 families. Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), people have developed their farms. “We hope the production will increase,” says Manjhi.

“Earlier, we would sell rice to local traders at Rs 500-700 per quintal (100 kg) when government’s price was Rs 1,200 per quintal,” says Dhan Singh Manjhi, village leader. Government agencies such as Food Corporation of India-authorised markets or farmers’ cooperatives would not accept foodgrain from an “encroacher’s” farm. This year, Manjhi and Lange together sold 4,500 kg of rice for Rs 45,000 to government agencies, an unheard of income in the village.

image“Development work has been proposed for families which have not availed the benefits yet. An irrigation project is also in pipeline,” says Sunita Tandy of Kalahandi-based non-profit Seba Jagat, which works for tribal rights.

Like Jurakhaman, many villages in Odisha are showing signs of prosperity. In Khariguda in Koraput district, 46 families got land titles. Of these, 16 constructed terraces on their farm slopes using MGNREGA. “My one acre (0.4 ha) farm will now fetch much more ragi,” says resident Bagh Mudli.

This is the development potential of FRA. Till June this year, 1.3 million families across the country got legal rights over 1.7 million ha, an unprecedented achievement. Most of them got legal right over their land for the first time. In contrast, under the much hyped land reforms programme, the government distributed only 2.2 million ha to 5.64 million families in the past six decades.

“If FRA is converged with government schemes, as the Act provides, and worked properly upon for at least five years, the economic condition of tribals will change drastically,” says Giri Rao of Bhubaneswar-based non-profit Vasundhara, which tracks implementation of FRA in the state.

A rough calculation shows that each title holder should have access to 56 government schemes covering land development, subsidised homes and government’s foodgrain procurement programme. “This priority convergence with government programmes makes the right an effective livelihood programme,” says N C Saxena, chairperson of the National Forest Rights Act Committee set up by the Centre to examine the implementation of FRA in 2010.

imagePondi village in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh is divided along several lines; some residents have both pattas and convergence, some have only pattas and some have nothing at all (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

But the question is: have people reaped the benefits of FRA? The economic boom that these villages of Odisha are experiencing should have become a reality in 170,000 villages across the country. The environment ministry’s India Forestry Outlook study for 2020, published in 2009, estimates that 20 per cent of the forestland under government control would be with people once the Act is fully implemented. This is more than 15 million ha forestland. As many as 31 million ha forestland is used by villages, estimates Forest Survey of India. But the Act’s development potential has been least exploited (see ‘Not implemented, not converged’). Of the 19 states that have state action plans to implement FRA, none has taken up full scale convergence programme.

“Patta de kar bhool gaye”

In Madhya Pradesh’s Bhagpur village, people got titles in 2010. But convergence work is nil. “Patta dekar bhool gaye hain (Government has forgotten us after issuing claim certificates),” says resident Sundari Bai Dhurve. “We have to do land-levelling, bunding and need wells, irrigation pumps and electricity,” says another resident Khuman Veladi. “We cannot make a sustainable income on small holdings without these aids.”

FRA’s implementation is similar across the country. Some forest dwellers have got land titles  some are waiting for itResidents of Jungle Modi in Odisha were given titles to land parcels much smaller than what they had claimed(Photo: Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava)

In neighbouring Samaiya village, Chotelal Saiyam’s 4.4 ha family land was split among three brothers when they got land rights. “When the entire family shared land, some would look after agriculture and others would collect forest produce. Collectively, we managed a decent living. Now each family has to look after its own piece of land. Income from forest produce has fallen,” he says.

In Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh, convergence work has been undertaken in only two panchayats—Ajgar and Gaura Kanhari. “Even in villages where work has been done, only some people have received benefits,” says Hiralal Sarote, who livs in Katangola village of Madhya Pradesh and works for non-profit Nirmaan. In Pondi village of Ajgar panchayat, 81 claims were accepted, but only 31 land-levelling and bunding jobs were sanctioned. Only two of the five wells sanctioned could be completed. “Now the village is divided along several lines,” says Fulsingh Kewatia, FRA committee president, “Some have both pattas and convergence, some have only pattas and some have nothing at all.”

But the government has a long list of convergence work done in the state. Ashish Upadhyay, former commissioner, tribal development, who was transferred recently, says 70 to 80 per cent of the beneficiaries have been issued Kisan Credit Cards, with loans facilitated through cooperative banks. Till March 2013, as many as 54,000 houses have been sanctioned under Indira Awaas Yojana, 10,000 wells have been sanctioned under MGNREGA, and 20,000 motor pumps given under Central assistance scheme for tribal development. This apart, 7,000 land levelling jobs have been completed.

FRA’s implementation is similar across the country. Some forest dwellers have got land titles  some are waiting for itResidents of villages in Adilabad were happy to get land titles but were unaware of benefits they could claim under convergence (Photo: M Suchitra)

Titles given, not recorded

For the government, handing over land titles is the easiest step in implementing FRA. The tough task is officially changing the land’s regime. As per FRA, all forest villages, unrecorded settlements and old habitation must be converted to revenue villages. Notably, despite decades of efforts India still does not have proper records of lands.

“New titles must be recorded in government’s land records. Without this, title holders’ ownership will not be recognised,” says Sanjay Upadhyay, environment lawyer and former legal consultant with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). “But no state has recorded fresh land titles in its revenue record. Hardly any forest village has been converted to revenue village. Everything is on paper, nothing has changed on ground,” says Upadhyay.

imageClaims of more than 50 per cent tribal households in Gunjiguda village in Odisha were rejected (Photo: Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava)“Our village does not have an irrigation tank,” says former sarpanch Ganesh Taram of Rampuri village in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district. “We urgently need wells to sustain paddy crops when there is little rain.” With their titles not registered in revenue records, they cannot avail government schemes. “This year we suffered huge losses due to heavy rains, but in absence of records, we are not eligible for government aids,” he says.

“According to revenue records, government is the owner of my land, not me,” says Vasudev Meshram of Jambhli village in the same district. “When I showed the document at the paddy procurement cooperative of the tribal development department, I was refused membership.” The state government has not demarcated his land on ground. Meshram is lucky to have the revenue record. Most of the 50 families in his village do not have their revenue records at all, though they received land claims under FRA in 2010.

In many states, convergence work has not started because of the absence of government guidelines on the process of issuing revenue record documents, says K V Dhurve, chief coordinator, forest rights, tribal development department, Maharashtra. It is not clear whether the document is to be issued in the owner’s name or the government’s, he says.

In Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, revenue and forest departments are in conflict over the status of forestland. Dispute over land ownership between revenue and forest departments is a big hurdle in the implementation of FRA. Neither the state governments nor the Centre is clear about the process of recording the rights and status of land after handing over titles. In 2011, when Madhya Pradesh raised doubts over the process of recording rights and the administration of FRA land post-settlement, MoTA said it was to be done as per the settlement rules of each state government and left it to them to decide it.

Pachlu Uike’s land in Orai village, Madhya Pradesh, was marked forestland with a pillar. He claimed his land in 2008 but the forest department did nothing about itPachlu Uike’s land in Orai village, Madhya Pradesh, was marked forestland with a pillar. He claimed his land in 2008 but the forest department did nothing about it (Photo: Aparna Pallavi)

A senior MoTA official admits correction of land records is tricky. “Every state has a different setup for maintaining land records, so each state will have to find its own way of recording the rights. The Centre cannot prescribe a uniform format,” the official says.

FRA a mere electoral issue?

The Central and state governments had electoral interests in FRA. The Act came into force in 2007, two years prior to general elections. In Maharashtra, most titles were given in 2008-09, says Pratibha Shinde of state-based non-profit Lok Sangharsh Morcha. “Now that the Lok Sabha elections are scheduled for April next year, people will start getting titles again,” she says. Countrywide, most titles were given between 2008 and 2010, the period when major forest-bearing states went to polls (see ‘Poll time to give land titles’).

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