Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan
Needed: Right to Information Related to Land Records for Land Struggles of Poor
Original inhabitants of the plateau area of newly created district of Chitrakoot were Kols. Before and after Independence all their resources were grabbed under a conspiracy. Several outsiders came here through government service. Several also became contractors. Kol forest dwellers of Patha became deprived of the rights of water, forest and land. Their days kept on passing as bonded labour. In 1952, Zamindari Abolition Act was enacted in 1952 under which land of big landlords was taken away from them and given to the landless on lease. Big landlords in Patha area got lease enacted in the name of their bonded labour. At that time, lekhpal and landlords got 7 to 12 bighas of land in the name of Kols in land records (khatauni) (1 acre is equal to 2.5 bighas or 2 bigha and 6 biswa, approximately).
Kols became lease holder (owner of land) in papers, but they did not know anything about this.Kols used to cultivate the land thinking it belonged to the malik (owner) and gave it to him. They were only concerned with paanch pav mazdoori (wages in the shape of nearly 1.25 kg of grains).
In 1987, Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan (ABSSS) started work in Patha. In the initial phase, meetings and workshops were organised in the villages for creating awarenes regarding bonded labour, drinking water and education. These created belief and zeal among the people. Gradually, it transpired whether Kols residing in the area since aged had ancestral lands, or not. It also transpired that main basis of removing their poverty can only be land. When asked, no Kol was able to tell whether he owned land, nor he had any land record. Raja Bua and Ram Kishore said that the Sansthan carried out a survey in 1986 in which land related information were collected. The first agitation was done by Patha Kol Adhikar Manch. The information received in the agitation was conveyed to the then Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM). For the first time, land issue was raised forcefully in 1987 in Kekaramar village. Chhota Kol and his family opened his mouth against Thakur Manmohan Singh, leading to large scale violence. The matter reached the court.
Thakur Manmohan Singh used to lord over Kekaramar village. The entire village, that is, 30-40 Kol families were bonded - their 'religion' was to plough his land. The Kols used to get only panch pav wages. The gram samaj land (government land) was under illicity occupation of Thakur Manmohan Singh - this was freed from his occupation. The poor of the village were motivated to graze their cattle on the land, to stand on the land and to use for other purposes. After this incident, the workers of the Sansthan got several threats.
The second struggle took place on the issue of bonded labour and land in Kusumi and Bambiha villages. Mawaiya tribals used to reside in Kusumi village and they were bonded with Narvada Prasad Mishra of Bambiha village. Seeing inhuman condition there, the Sansthan workers Shiv Mangal Baba and Raja Bua motivated the poor. Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Arun Arya initiated legal action against the above dominant owner. Because of political pressure, he was transferred out of Karvi sub-district, but before moving he gave lease land to the bonded labourers and rehabilitated them. In this incident too, the workers had to face local pressure and fear. But this also gave a good message in the area as for the first time some dominant person had come under the scanner of law and police. In 1989, an order came from the government that lekhpal will read out katauni in the village and give land related information. This was initiated in Patha area. The Sansthan workers used to see land records on these occasions. While reading khatauni, dominant people used to surround the lekpal, who used to call only those names, whom the dominant people used to tell him. Lekpal also used to be terrorised. Raja Bua says at that time it was difficult to talk to the people regarding information related to land. Getting records from the administration was even more difficult. We could not think that records could be had.
Sakrauha, Chamrauha, Unchadeeh and Nihi Charaiya have more incidents of land grabbing. Original inhabitants of these villages are Kols. Their lands have been usurped for small loans through sale deed, fake sale deeds, fake inheritance, etc.
Efforts of the Sansthan on the issue of land continued uninterrupted.In 1993-94 the then Additional District Magistrate, Mr Narendra Bhushan, launched land measurement and possession campaign. Teams were constituted lekhpals, quanoongo and other officials in six nyaya panchayats suffering from land problem. The Sansthan workers also used to accompany them.
Chhotelal Kol said that land was being measured in Kol Colony, Kuhinua. A Dadu came and started threatening the lekhpal. At that time the lekhpal became frightened. Then we said if you do not measure the land correctly we shall make a complaint to the ADM. We started raising question by seeing papers and map. then lekhpal mustered courage. He threatened the Dadu to get him arrested. Only then land could be measured.
The Sansthan workers were in the eyes of dominant persons. Even today, the dominant persons are angry.
- While arranging possession of the land, the Sansthan Director Gopal Bhai was implicated in a dacoity case by Gungai Seth of Suargarha village. A case of dacoity was lodged against him. Last year the case was settled in his favour.
- Santosh Kol (worker) was threatened endlessly by the dominant persons while he was arranging possession of land in Nihi village.
- Kuber Kol was severely beaten up by the dominant person when he was advocating minimum wages and land possession at Naagar village and his skull was opened. He was about to be killed, but was rescued in time by the school children in Naagar village and the Sansthan workers. An agitation was launched against the dominant person. Only then he could be arrested. This incident dates back to 1994. The then Member of Parliament Prakash Narain Tripathi was on the side of Dharampal Tripathi, who had assaulted Kuber Kol.
Success on the land issue could be attained only when the Sansthan had collected correct information from the revenue records. The process of gathering information continued at regular intervals. Contact with the district administration and good relations, and sometimes pressure on lekhpals enabled to get land records.
The legal provision of getting the record is that the landholder demanded a copy of the record. But the lekhpal charged sum between Rs 15 and Rs 20 instead of Rs 2 as fixed to give the copy. This cuased difficulties for the villagers. For seeing land records, a district level land record cell has been established. An application can be given to its in-charge to find out the owner of a particular piece of land, if one knows the number of land. This results in a loss of one day time and money. Since there is only one record room in the district, it is also overcrowded.
After kachcha muayana (inspection) Rs 50 to Rs 100 have to be paid to the clerk for permanent copy after giving stamped application. Only permanent copy is valid in the courts. At present the courts also give recognition to crop year khatauni copy.
For inspection of records sent to the record room, permission has to be sought from the District Magistrate or the designated officer. Generally, the following persons are given permission to inspect the records:
- Lawyer of contestant
- Registered clerk of lawyer
- Authorised agents of contestant
If the District Magistrate thinks it fit to refuse permission to inspect the records, he can do so, but he will record reasons of such refusal on the order.
The persons who are given permission are expected not to enter into the record room, but they can inspect the records in designated room. The person inspecting the record is not entitled to go into the room with pen, but he is allowed to take notes in pencil. If the person inspecting the record intends to copy any paper fuly, he will have to take permission from the in-charge. At the village level, lekhpal is authorised to give copies of documents other than settlement documents and consolidation documents to the applicants. For each instance of khatauni and khasra, the lekhpal will collect Rs 2 as fee. On the certified copy, it is mandatory that the fee is mentioned on the copy.
Though the charges are fixed at Rs 2, the lekhpals charge Rs 20 to Rs 50 from the village residents and farmers. This is illegal.
If the lekhpal does not make the copy available in time, a complaint against him may be made to the Chairman of Bhoomi Prabandhak Samiti, Tehsildar, SDM and District Magistrate. This is a long time consuming process.
For getting copies of the documents the application has to be givenin prescribed format RD Format No. 260. This format is available with any licenced stamp vendor at court or tehsil.
The crux of the matter is that getting copies is not an easy matter for the farmers. Rounds of courts are painful for the farmers. Specially, the poor are never mentally ready to get entangled in legal process.
- If one does not have correct copies of documents, or he does not have correct information regarding them, he cannot get justice.
- Why is it necessary to get copies of records:
- Ownership rights can only be had through documents
- Documents give solid base to contest
- Land is measured on the basis of documents
- Documents are the basis of inheritence
- Someone can bail out on the basis of documents
- A person can be eligible for government loans through documents
- Documents reveal permanent address of a person
- Documents give convenience to next generation
- Documents are government certificate
- On the basis of documents benefits of government schemes are availed
- Documents may prevent land bungling
- Documents provide stability to the life of someone
- Type of land and its value is decided on the basis of documents
- Land can be transferred on the basis of documents
- Documents determine land revenue
- Identification and measurement of agriculture and barren land is done on the basis of documents
- Documents play critical role in formulation of agricultural policy
- Estimation of total crop yield in the country is made on the basis of documents
- Amount of compensation is determined on the basis of documents
(This report was prepared by senior workers of the Sansthan Vasudev and his colleagues for Aar Paar)