BHOOMI
 
 
About Land Access

Poor owning small piece of land either assigned by the government or own land not able to protect their lands in spite of many pro- poor land legislations - Either title is not there for the lands under their enjoyment since ages or possession not shown though pattas are given- thousands of acres of inam lands still waiting for settlement.

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Poor are fighting unsuccessful legal battles in thousands of cases in various courts from the grass root to state level the reason is the same lack of legal awareness and absence of legal support/assistance/aid.

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Scheduled Areas Tribals Lack of legal awareness and absence of legal support/assistance/aid In spite of the strong Land Transfer Regulations prohibiting the transfer of lands in favor of non-tribals, more and more lands are passing into the hands of non-tribals & non-tribals hold as much as 48% of the land in Scheduled Areas.

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Dalits and Tribals are the most vulnerable groups in terms of land ownership. Statistics show that in spite of large scale government land distribution and protective enactments, ownership of land still eludes them. Land is the principal source of livelihood for the tribals. This principal source of livelihood is under threat from non-tribals. To prohibit transfer of lands in favor of non-tribals, Andhra Pradesh Schedule Areas Land Transfer Regulation was enacted in the year 1959 and subsequently amended in 1970, 1971 & 1978.

Andhra Pradesh Schedule Areas Land Transfer Regulation, 1959 (popularly referred to as LTR) prohibits the transfer of immovable property by any person except in favor of Scheduled Tribes. In spite of stringent provisions in the Regulation, more and more lands are passing into the hands of non-tribals. Non-tribals hold as much as 48% of the land in Scheduled Areas.

From the inception of LTR till 2006, as per the information provided by TCR&TI, a wing of Tribal Welfare Commissionerate of Govt. of AP, 3, 23,887 acres of land was found to be alienated and 72,354 cases were booked. As per field feedback, these are only half of the actual land alienations happening in Scheduled Areas. Out of these cases booked under LTR, 70,676 cases covering 3,16,942 acres were decided out of which 33,384 cases covering 1,63,598 acres (51.6%) were decided against tribals.

The tribals are not able to access justice due to factors like lack of legal awareness, absence of legal support, alien adjudicatory system, adversarial adjudicatory system which we adopted from the British, administrative machinery being handicapped, tribals voice not being heard and lack of access to records.

To address this situation, and to support the poor and the tribals in protecting their rights in land and recognizing the need for a sensitive support mechanism for the poor and facilitators who assist in getting their land issues resolved, the Mandal Samakhyas and Zilla Samakhyas have not only hired the services of people with legal and revenue backgrounds but also are training their own community members in land matters so that they can themselves handle their land problems. It is a multipronged approach where the Samakhyas are also putting in place support structures like land centers where required information and records are made available, a panel of lawyers to help them fight out their court cases, a group of youth from the community trained in survey etc. to handle the issue from all the angles.

For assisting the rural poor by advocating for their rights and resolve land disputes in formal and informal legal proceedings and courts of law and to create sustainable legal support systems for the poor, a pilot program was implemented in 41 mandals of Kadapa district. In the pilot mandals paralegals were positioned and they started working on the land issues of the poor. The revenue magistrates have extended support by organizing village courts for the issues brought to their notice by paralegals and resolved the issues.

The programme is now scaled up to cover 400 plus plain mandals covering all districts in the state.

1. Institutional Arrangement

Convergence approach

Apart from the steps taken by the Government, Civil society organizations working on land issues also have attempted innovative experiments to rectify inequities of land ownership in the rural areas. Their wisdom and experience is being used in training the paralegals. The Government has already issued Order institutionalizing convergence between the Land Administration, Civil Society Organizations and the community through G.O.Ms.No.1148.

Facilitation Support by Paralegals

A cadre of activists is positioned who fill the gap between the community and the justice delivery systems and provide facilitation support to the poor suffering from land issues like insecurity of tenure, lack of title or possession, prolonged litigations etc. These activist are given a thorough understanding of land enactments, land records etc. to enable them to undertake the paralegal work in the villages. One paralegal per Mandal is positioned.

A paralegal is one who has all the knowledge about law and its usage. Paralegals help in dissemination of legal information and take care of the pre-litigative work i.e. getting necessary information on cases and issues, conducting local enquiry to know field situation and following up of cases in both revenue and civil courts.

Surveyors from the community

In many areas, the dearth of Government Surveyors is resulting in survey related work piling up and it is the poor who suffer mainly because of this. As an alternative, youth from among the community are trained in cadastral survey and are placed at the disposal of the community as majority of the land issues of the poor need survey operations to settle them.

Legal Assistance

The services of Law Students, Law graduates and Lawyers are utilized in extending legal support to the poor. The Law students can make a great contribution towards creation of legal awareness and legal empowerment. Fresh Law graduates with sufficient understanding of Land Laws are positioned as Legal Coordinators to extend functional and technical support to these paralegal activists. A panel of lawyers is being made available to the poor to help them fight out their land cases.

Transfer of Knowledge to the Community

Ultimately it is the community which has to be empowered to handle their land issues capably. The support mechanism should strive towards transfer of land knowledge and information to the village communities.

Land Centers for the poor

Land Centers have been set up to function as single window support centers in Zilla Samakhyas for the poor from where they can access the services of paralegal professionals working on land, surveyors, Revenue functionaries and lawyers. All the important Land Records and other relevant land enactments etc are being made available to the poor in these centers.

                                                          

Working Model

The Government, Assigned and Ceiling Surplus lands are physically verified to know the land problems faced by the poor. In tribal areas, both Government and Private lands are physically verified to know the actual extents of land held by the tribals and non-tribals.

  • The Paralegals map the land issues in the villages.

  • Paralegals conduct local enquiry in identified cases and collect the information on all other cases pending in the villages and submit factual reports to the Revenue Officers.

  • The Revenue Officers resolve the land issues.

  • The support of the District Legal Services Authority is sought to facilitate organization of Lok Adalats for cases pending in the civil courts.

  • Wherever intervention of lawyers required, the Lawyers Panel will take up the cases providing legal aid.

  • Wherever survey related issues are reported, the Zilla Samakhya will send its community surveyors for resolving the same.

  • Efforts are made for creating land litigation free villages.

  • Law students take up scrutiny of the files of LTR cases in tribal areas disposed by or pending before the Agency Courts.

  • Appeals are preferred in the cases that have gone against the tribals through a panel of advocates.

  • Restoration of lands to the tribals will be facilitated in coordination with Revenue Department.

Status

1. Coverage:The programme is being implemented in about 400 mandals in the state. Paralegals have been trained in land matters and positioned in the mandals. Community surveyors have been trained by AP Survey Training Academy, Hyderabad, Department of Survey and are working on survey related issues in the field. Land Managers (retired revenue officers) and Legal Coordinators (fresh law graduates) are providing functional support to them.

2. As part of empowering the community, especially the women, Land Sub-Committees have been formed in all the Zilla Samakhyas and working Mandal Samakhyas. These sub- committees have 3-5 members who are trained in basics of land records and land enactments.

3. Bhoomi Chaitanya Deepikalu, handbooks on land issues, were brought out to guide the land functionaries as well as general public in getting their land issues resolved. An exercise was conducted by IKP in December, 2006 wherein the Additional Project Directors, Land, paralegals and community surveyors stayed in select villages for a few days, prepared an inventory of land issues of the poor in the village. After the field work, they consolidated the data and listed out all the land issues. Then a workshop was held under the guidance of knowledgeable revenue officers and the problems identified in the village were categorized. In the workshop, they discussed issue by issue and developed step by step process for getting the same resolved. The districts have prepared detailed process guidelines handbooks giving the process to be adopted by the paralegals and also the action to be taken by revenue machinery for resolving each issue. About 60 types of land issues were identified by the districts in this exercise.

  The following handbooks were published by IKP in 2007-08.

  1. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-1: Assignment in Andhra Area
  2. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-2: Assignment in Telangana Area
  3. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-4: Ceiling Surplus Lands
  4. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-5: Record of Rights
  5. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-6: Inam Lands (Telangana Area)
  6. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-7: Sada Bainamas
  7. Bhoomi Chaithanya Deepika-8: Survey Process

The handbooks are supplied to all the Joint Collectors, RDOs, Tahsildars, VROs, Paralegals, Community Surveyors and Mandal Samakhyas.

The land is still the single most emotive issue in rural areas and Indira Kranthi Patham has taken it up for promoting confidence among the poor that they can take advantage of the laws which are enacted for their benefit and can get justice. As a community demand driven project of the poor, for the poor and by the poor, the ultimate vision of the programme is to expand the scope of this sensitive support structure based on the legal needs of the community which would lead them towards legal empowerment. This programme is an attempt in that direction.