According to the Ministry of Rural Development’s Annual Report 2004-2005, Jharkhand topped the list of adivasi land alienation in the country, with 86,291 cases involving 10,48,93 acres of land. After independence and up to 1990 over 26 lakh people were displaced in Jharkhand due to “development” projects such as dams, industrial projects, etc – majority of them were tribal people. It has been estimated that about 22,00,000 acres of tribal land has been lost since independence. These statistics speak clearly that the CNT Act has failed to protect the interests of poor tribes.
In fact, the CNT Act was amended in 1947 to allow urbanization, industrialization and various “development” projects. Besides, the provisions of other laws such as the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and the Indian Forest Act go against the spirit of the CNT Act. Therefore, the CNT Act has failed to provide any meaningful protection to the tribal community.
Here are few examples to show how the simple tribals end up losing their land holdings and how rich and powerful people from all segments of society, including their own, are duping poor them.
(A) How Builders take Tribal Land
The Bari Cooperative Society
The case of an Adivasi village “Tetulia” situated nearby the steel city Bokaro in Jharkhand is a typical example of land alienation through tricks and breach of the laws. 45 Santhal families had been living in the village. They were tricked into giving away their lands. Now the village has completely lost its identity and has come to be known as Bari Cooperative, where 250 posh buildings have replaced the mud houses of non-Adivasis. Some of the tribal land owners still live in mud houses outside of the cooperative area.
The ‘Bari Cooperative Society’ was established in 1980 by two property dealers, who approached the Adivasis with a proposal to establish a garment factory and promised them jobs apart from paying them Rs 1000 per acre for land. Thus, they acquired 50 acres of land from Adivasis in the name of Bari Cooperative but then backed on their promise.
Interestingly, the garment factory was closed within days and a posh colony was built and the houses were sold at the market rate to non-tribals. When the matter was brought out into light, the deputy commissioner of Bokaro investigated it in 2005 and discovered the violations of the CNT Act. However, no action followed. The displaced tribal families are without justice even after over three decades.
One of the victims, a 40 years old Pankisto Manjhi, says, “He had been given just 10 kg of rice for 3 acre of land”. Another 60 years old Fagu Manjhi, whose lost 1.27 acre of land was given a job of guard with monthly salary of Rs 800 but when the cooperative was closed he found himself left unemployed.
Similarly, Kari Manjhi who had 9.26 acres of land of which 4.24 acres were taken by the Bari Cooperative and 2.36 acres were captured by migrant Biharis, is now left with merely 2.66 acre land. He filed a case in Bokaro Civil Court against the Bari Cooperative in 2006 but nothing has happened yet.
(B) How State Officials Work against the CNT Act
The Ranchi Land Scam
In 1995 the Jharkhand Vigilance Bureau unearthed a land scam where in collaboration with some bureaucrats and land mafia had sold more than 200 acres of tribal and Government Land at prime locations in Ranchi, which was worth over Rs 400 crores. These plots of land were illegally transferred to private housing co-operative societies and individuals in gross violation of the CNT Act. The culprits are still at large in 2012.
Deoghar Land Scam
Late 2011 it was discovered that about 800 acres of non-transferable private and government land worth over Rs 1000 crores was sold or transferred illegally. This was going on for the last three years by forging the original land records the land-mafia has managed to grab these basauri (residential category) plots in Deoghar. Active involvement of officials, responsible for maintaining land-records and registrations, is clearly indicated. The modus-operandi of the land-mafia in this land scam was really intelligent.
- First, they prepared forged land documents to change the status of the non-transferable land to the acquired and transferable category.
- Then, they replaced the original land documents lying in District Record Room with the forged land documents.
- Next, they changed the name of the land-owners in the Register.
- Then, they prepared bogus land receipts – some even dating back to 30 to 40 years. Forged documents dating back to 1940s were prepared on computers, when computers did not exist!!
- Lastly, using the forged land-document, these private and government lands were sold to the buyers.
(C) Politicians Violating the CNT Act
When it comes to violating the CNT (SPT) Act, political ideologies don’t stand on the way. This is very true at least in Jharkhand. Here is the list of some select people who have been accused of acquiring tribal land in violation of the Act:
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha – Sibu Soren, his son Hemant Soren, and Mathura Mahto (once a land and revenue minister)
Interestingly, Mathura Mahto (JMM) has been a staunch supporter of the Act. Members of his family allegedly bought 18 plots of land in Dhanbad district without the mandatory permission of the DC in recent years.
Bharatiya Janata Party – Neel Kanth Singh Munda (MLA)
Congress Party – Pradeep Balmuchu (State Congress chief)
In defiance of the provision that land belonging to tribals can be sold to and bought by other tribals residing in the same circle and police station areas as the landowning tribals, these leaders allegedly bought tribal land outside their circle and police station areas. Further, the permission of deputy commissioners (DC) of the districts is mandatory for every sale and purchase of tribal land. They are also authorized by the Act to restore land sold without their permission.
According to land revenue department officials, there are many other politicians who have acquired land in a similar way.
The ongoing coalmine allocation scam will sure reveal the names of several other prominent politicians in coming months.
(D) A Tale of Tribal Victory !!
A tribal, Surendra Dehri, has alleged that over 10,000 acres of “notified tribal land” had been usurped by mining contractors in connivance with the government officials. The Jharkhand High Court dismissed his petition saying that it involved only “private interest”. So, he approached the Supreme Court against the High Court order.
In 2007, the apex court held that the High Court was wrong to dismiss the petition of Surendra Dehri. It stated that a clear violation of constitutional guarantees given to the tribals could not be held to be related to “private interest” and allowed the tribal petitioner to file a fresh petition before the Jharkhand High Court for recovery of his land from a mining company.