A Decade On, Scores Of Dalit Families Await Possession
Kankubai, 45, wife of late Ganpatlal Balai, received information in 2002 that the government had allotted around 1.5 acre land under a scheme. She thought it would give a respite, from the daily grind and drudgery, to her family struggling hard to meet both ends. A decade on, her struggle is far from over for the small piece of land she is â˜proud owner of.
Even I do not know, where the plot exists because no official came to clarify all these issues, she said, adding that they went to tehsil and district office many times, seeking help of officials, but they continued to offer excuses. Kankubai hails from Keshwal village of Taran tehsil in Ujjain district.
Similarly, Mohan Balai, son of Dhulji Balai, died after a protracted battle for his rightful land, but to no avail. He was the resident of Nanded village in neighbouring industrial Dewas district. Elder brother of the deceased, Babulal Balai said Mohan had even his plot measured, but denied the ownership yet. The then SDM did earmark the boundary and permitted him to start cultivation on the land. However, when he went to get possession, the â€˜encroachersâ€™ threatened him with dire consequences. The experience came as a shock to him, a patient of tuberculosis, resulting in his death after some time, said Babulal. It came as a shattering blow to the family. His wife went to her maternal family with her two-year-old son.
These are not only isolated examples in the state. There are thousands like him, still fighting to get their rightful ownership.
In the Bhopal declaration held at the state capital on January 12 and 13 in 2002, the state government prepared 21-point action agenda for empowerment of Dalits.
According to the agenda, the government had said it would ensure "Each dalit family will own enough cultivable land for socio-economic well-being. The government should pursue all possible measures including the distribution of surplus land, government revenue land and temple land within a specific timeframe. If the need be, the government should purchase cultivable land and distribute it among the dalits." The land was distributed till December 2002, but only on paper.
Madhya Pradesh Bhoomi Adhikar Abhiyan (MPBAA) convener Asif Sheikh said, "We came to know about the issue only when people had come to us for help. As a result, we sought information through the RTI on the issue. What emerged was nothing short of a major shock."
Many dalits were struggling to get land they were entitled to. However, fearing social boycott and threat to life, they lost hope to get the ownership.
It was then the MPBAA began looking for detail and found that the Congress-ruled government in 2002 had distributed around 7 lakh acre to 3,44,329 Dalit families, he said, adding the government had passed an order to this effect on March 2, 2002. Here are the details of land distribution till December 2002.
Referring to the list, Asif said many families are struggling to get land. He said, around 2,06,597 families out of 3,44,329 in the state are having difficulty in getting land possession.
Efforts to contact Dr Devraj Birdi, principal secretary, scheduled caste welfare, proved futile.