By Our Representative
Fresh facts have come to light suggesting that, in Gujarat, there has been extremely tardy progress in the allocation of surplus land to the landless, acquired from big landlords under the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, 1960. Based on right to information (RTI) pleas, the district registrar of land records, Junagadh, has admitted that out of 11 of 16 villages for which information was sought, “no land survey of surplus has taken place” for the last 24 years, hence there was no allocation.
In another instance, in Navsari district, Gujarat government declared that between 2006 and 2008 it had “allocated” land to 7,542 landless beneficiaries, but a year later, it admitted the land titles were yet been given to 3,616 beneficiaries. “However, now, on the basis of an RTI reply, we know that things have not changed even in 2015. The reply that we have received says that there no record of surveying the land meant for allocation”, says Jignesh Mewani, a Dalit rights lawyer.
In a recent article, published in “Dalit Adhikar” (October 1, 2010), a Gujarati periodical, Mewani says, “Information with us suggests that the Gujarat government, in all, acquired 1,63,808 acres land under the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling Act, 1960, and we feel most of it has been allocated to the landless only on paper. The landless – mainly Dalits, tribals and belonging to the other backward classes (OBCs) – haven’t have yet got actual possession of land.”
Mewani claims, “Chief beneficiaries of the land-to-the-tiller policy have been upper caste Patels. About 55,000 Patels were allocated 12 lakh acres of land declared, mainly in Saurashtra and Kutch regions of Gujarat. But as for Dalit landless agriculturists, they have received not even 12 inches of land – of course, a very small section, which is very close to the powers-that-be, has gained.”
According to Mewani, “Let us give a sample of the Gujarat government’s good governance: We made in all 65 RTI applications between 2011 and 2015 to find out facts about allocation of just 6,500 acres of land in different villages. Yet, officials are refusing to give copies of land titles which may show that land has been actually handed to the beneficiaries.”
Associated with Jan Sangharsh Manch, a Gujarat-based human rights organization, Mewani says, “Of the 1,63,808 acres of surplus land, 70,000 acres of land is under dispute with the revenue tribunal, Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court. While this land may not be allocated, there is a need to answer as to why rest of the land, too, remains unallocated.”
In fact, says Mewani, there are 15,519 acres of surplus land, on which there is “no dispute” at all, yet the Gujarat government is “refusing to act”, and the “ruling BJP, in collusion with the Opposition Congress, is sitting pretty.” He alleges, “Even Dalit, tribal and OBC legislators are not taking up the cause of the landless.”
Facts on Gujarat government’s “indifference” towards allocating surplus land have come to light amidst a recent amendment Bill to the 1960 land ceiling Act. The Bill’s preamble talks of selling the surplus land lying idle with “any urban local body” for “public purpose, when the land is situated within the areas of such local body”, and to “any person, for industrial purpose, or for the purpose of development thereof, when the land is situated outside the areas of the urban local body”.
Already turned controversial, the Bill is currently lying before the President of India his final nod.