Sunday, February 15, 2015

Perspective From India: Marginalised, Unrepresented: Ring Any Bells?

A different continent, different modes of life, but we are all connected by the indifference, some would say callousness, of a political system that allows the continuation of such inequality and even suffering for millions of people. How are the communities referred to below different from those we recognise closer to home? Are they very different? Consider western unemployment, homelessness, poverty and measure the result against what is reported below. In common is the lack of representation, too many marginalised, disposable people, because they are of little use in a system organised first and foremost to make profit. Let's remember we have much more in common with these distant individuals than we do with any of the elites back home who are bent on plundering the global commons in their own interest at whatever cost to the rest of us.

Landless agricultural labourers, Khet Mazdoors, Dalits, Adivasis, most backward communities, Pasmanda Muslims, women, activists working on land and livelihood issues from different parts of Uttar Pradesh gathered here on February 13, 2015 for 11th Annual Convention of Uttar Pradesh Land Alliance (UPLA) in Lucknow and resolved to continue to work for the rights of the most marginalized communities in different parts of the state and request the government to put a moratorium on further land acquisition of poor marginalized communities who need state protection from growing alienation from their livelihood and natural resources. We also want to convey to the government that land is not just livelihood for millions of farmers predominantly hailing from Dalit, backward and Adivasi communities but it is their life and honour. For centuries they have protected our environment and gave us food security. Land Reforms are therefore essential for social justice and as a nation we owe a lot to these communities who have kept us feeding for years and made our nation self-sufficient in food grains. We extend our support to all those who are fighting for their constitutional and traditional rights over land and natural resources or protecting them.
We want to remind the government of Uttar Pradesh to fulfil the promises made under Zamindari Abolition Act and make changes in the laws to enable the people get their due.

1. We demand that the government implement land ceiling act in the entire state in letter and spirit, and redistribute the land to landless poor particularly Dalits, Adivasis and backward communities. We also demand women from these communities be given preferences in redistribution of land.

2. We demand amendments in the Land Ceiling Laws of the state which must cover the religious institutions and trusts, Goshalas and farmland. People have used dubious methods through religious charitable trusts to evade land-ceiling laws.

3. The government must form special Land Courts to settle land disputes and implement the land reform measures
strongly and effectively. The government must concentrate on giving communal entitlement. We also demand that women should be given priority in allotment of agricultural land, and all new entitlements whether residential or agricultural should have joint entitlement.

4. We demand that continuous alienation of tribal land in Tarai region of Uttar Pradesh like Lakhimpur Kheri, Bahraich, etc of the Tharus and in Bundelkhand region of Kol communities is a matter of great concern. Most of the tribal land in Tarai region of UP have gone to non-Adivasis through dubious deals. That must be stopped. Any new industry in the region must be not only fulfilling all the environmental laws but also protect Aadivasis’ right to access their forest resources and land.

5. Uttar Pradesh government has not implemented Forest Rights Act in spirit. Thousands of Adivasis have not got their due because of official procedural issues.

6. We demand Kols in Bundelkhand be declared as Scheduled Tribe as in Madhya Pradesh so that they can benefit from the Forest Rights Act. It is a great disservice to Adivasis of Bundelkhand that Kols are denied of the benefits due to Adivasis and also under Forest Rights Act.

7. Uttar Pradesh government must form a commission to look into what happened to Bhoodan land and who owns them. Whether these lands have ever been redistributed to poor as promised or gone back to powerful people in the villages.

8. The government should also look into the commons in the villages like ponds, orchards, and grazing areas and protect them from being encroached by the powerful people in the villages.

9. In many places people living on their land for centuries have no land papers. They live under constant threat of eviction from the authorities. We request government to form a committee in each district to find out such land and officially recognize those people as owners of the land.

10. We also demand government to honour the land entitlement of the people who have been granted it, but in reality have got no access to their land. There are a very large number of people who have land document from the government and are still landless. Government should look into these matters too and implement its own promises.

11. Uttar Pradesh has one of the largest numbers of people from Manual Scavenging communities. The government is duty bound to make an honourable rehabilitation of them. We request government to look into their plight, give them housing as well as agricultural land so that they can live their life honourably.

12. We also request the government to focus on most marginalized communities of the state. We would like to state that Mushahars, Doms, Bansfors, Swachchkars which include Balmikis, Helas, Rawats, Halalkhors), Nats, Mallahs, Kols, Tharus, Rajbhars, Patharkata, Pasmanda Muslims like Kalandars need special attention. It would be advisable that a Commission be formed to look into the issues of these communities. The government may add into this some more communities who are absolutely landless and marginalized in all forms and honourably rehabilitate them.

13. The government must acknowledge women as farmers as over 75% of farming work is done by women and yet they are not granted any ownership in the agricultural land which is against all international covenants and spirit of our constitution. Due to this great injustice, women farmers actually cannot get access to Bank loans and other facilities, which come out from having agricultural assets.

14. In the Bundelkhand region a large number of Kol Adivasis and other forest dwellers live under the constant threat of eviction because of the conflict of interest between the department of revenue and the department of forest. The Forest department does not recognize the land pattas given by the revenue and therefore making lives of people living on these lands very miserable. We want the government to take initiative in this and resolve the conflict between the two departments. Why should people pay a price for a dispute between the departments? It is advisable that the people given land patta by the revenue department must be honoured or duly rehabilitated if forest department evicts them.
 
15. We ask the government to honourably rehabilitate the flood victims of Semra village, Shivraikapura, Mohammadabad, Ghazipur as promised. The people have been struggling there for past two years and living in camps because of the heavy change of embankment by the river Ganga.

from here

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