The Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam (Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association) affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and the Tamil Nadu Tribals’ Association (TNTA) held a victorious struggle on Thursday (August 1) for the residents of four villages in Krishnagiri district. The officials agreed to provide land pattas within two months for families who were displaced in the early 1950s for the construction of Krishnagiri Reservoir Project (KRP) and the residents of tribal settlements in the district.
The KRP became operational in the year 1957, but the people are about to get their land pattas in 2019, after the prolonged struggle of AIKS and TNTA.
Residents Lay siege to Taluk Office
Thousands of residents of the villages laid siege to the Shoolagiri taluk office insisting on their six decades long demand for house pattas. After several hours of discussion with the District Revenue Officer (DRO), the state president of TNTA and former MLA representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist) P Dilli Babu announced that the DRO has signed the proceedings to provide house pattas to the applicants within two months after which the protest was temporarily suspended.
Speaking to NewsClick, Dilli Babu said, “The people handed over their patta land for the dam construction in 1952 to the state government. Instead of allocating land closer to the area, they were allotted land at a distance of 70 kilometres. Even the village was formed after these people were dislocated there. The government provided electricity and transport facilities, but continued to ignore their genuine demand for land pattas for so many decades. The government should have given those pattas immediately after they were evacuated from the dam site as they had sacrificed their lands for the construction work.”
Land Allotted to Villagers Transferred to Forest Department
The villagers were pushed further into trouble when the revenue department allocated the land sanctioned for the villagers to the forest department. The land was then announced as reserve forest much to the dismay of the residents.
Also read: Large Projects, "Development" and Riding Roughshod Over People's Rights
Dilli Babu added, “The residents were facing another displacement since the allocation of land to forest department. The move was unjustified and we have been fighting against the allocation to forest department. Then we demanded that the land from some other location belonging to the revenue department should be allocated and the land sanctioned to the villagers should not be taken over at any cost. There are provisions to exchange the lands allotted for which the DRO agreed as a result of the struggle and 364 families are relieved from the danger of being evacuated again”.
Official Apathy Left Tribals in a Mess
Around 254 families of the Irular tribe were on the verge of being left homeless even after the Supreme Court ordered that the forest dwellers can be allotted pattas if they have been living in the same place for more than five years, provided that the area is undisputed as per the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
“More than 254 families settled in different locations in the Ramanthitti tribal settlement faced several troubles as they were not provided pattas. They were demanding the pattas for the past 10 years. The officials were so lethargic, that ten years were not enough to provide land pattas, thus, denying the rights of the tribal families as per the FRA. Only 71 applications were processed during the past four years and 31 applicants were awarded individual rights of the land. Now, the DRO has promised to issue patta to these families living in the undisputed area once the Model Code of Conduct gets revoked after election to Vellore Parliamentary constituency is over on August 5,” Dilli Babu added.
Also read: State Governments Taken to Court for Land Acquisition Amendments
The mass evacuation of people in the name of development has been a continuing issue with the governments, which are only keen on evacuating people while lesser priority is given for rehabilitation and resettlement. Given the impact of the Supreme Court judgement on the petition challenging the rights of the forest dwellers and the FRA, the issues for the forest dwellers are about to get worse. The Narendra Modi led government has also been accused of being corporate friendly by its absence in the court to challenge the petition challenging the power of the Indian Parliament.