Kerala Govt Aims to Eliminate Landlessness, Distributes 41,021 Land Deeds within 100 Days
Thiruvananthapuram: “We’ve been living here for 23 years. But it took so many years for us to obtain land rights deeds,” says Gopinathan Ashari, who lives along with other 40 families in Paloli Colony, near Palode in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. “It was a moment of fulfilment for all of us,” add Shantha, Shanthini, and Leela, who live in the neighbourhood, while speaking to NewsClick. These families were handed land deeds by Kerala Revenue Minister K Rajan on May 17 as part of the 100-day action plan to mark the first anniversary of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s second term.
During the 100-day action plan from 11 February to 20 May, 41,021 land title deeds were distributed in the state.
Inaugurating a land deeds distribution event last week in Punalur, Kollam district, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had reiterated the state government’s commitment to eliminate landlessness and homelessness in the state.
Mission to Eliminate Landlessness
Despite its history of land reforms, the question of land ownership in Kerala has been an exception compared to other poverty indicators, in which the state generally fared well. The Economic Review published by Kerala State Planning Board in 2016 had pointed out this as a major challenge ahead.
A nationwide survey on 'Land and Livestock Holdings' (January 2013-December 2013) conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) indicated a double increase in the percentage of landless households in Kerala, between 2003 and 2013. The proportion of landless families in the state rose from 4.8% in 2003 to 9.85% in 2013, according to the survey. Although the survey was based on projections of a relatively smaller sample size, the pointers were alarming.
Since the LDF government assumed power in 2016, a total of 2,34,567 land deeds have been distributed across the state within the last six years. During the second tenure of the ministry, 54,535 land deeds were issued within a year. This includes settler farmers who have been possessing agricultural land with no records. The government has also provided 2,96,008 houses for the homeless within the last six years.
As the Left government is celebrating the first anniversary of its second term, a target was set to distribute 15,000 land deeds during the 100-day action plan. However, during this period, the revenue department went past double the target and distributed 41,021 land title deeds.
The digital resurvey, being implemented in the state for the first time, is also expected to ease land distribution to many. “Once the resurvey is completed, unused land can be identified as per land reform regulations, which in turn would make the land distribution to the deserving landless families easy,” said Kerala Revenue Minister K Rajan at a land deeds distribution event in Vaikkom, Kottayam.
Habitable Lands Priority
Raju and his wife Sudhamani participated in the Chengara land struggle for 12 years. From 2006 to 2018, landless Dalit-Adivasi families continued the struggle for land in Chengara estate, a rubber plantation in Pathanamthitta district owned by Harrisons Malayalam Ltd.
Raju and his family were in the struggle from the beginning. Finally in 2019, they were handed land titles for the 25 cents that they live on. Further, 17 other families who participated in the Chengara Struggle were allotted 25 cents each, in the Devappura ward of Peringammala gram panchayat in the Thiruvananthapuram district. The area is now named Ambedkar Colony.
Speaking to NewsClick, Raju said the land distribution procedure gained pace since the LDF government came to power in 2016. “Earlier in 2013-14, we were offered 50 cent land in a remote area of Idukki district. We visited the plot and it was found non-habitable and not suitable for farming. Therefore, we declined the land deeds and demanded habitable land. This land is suitable for farming, the only problem is a wild-boar threat,” said Raju showing the plantains, tapioca, and other tuber crops that he has cultivated around his small shelter.
“The promises in the Chengara package also include Rs 10 lakhs for housing. We have pressed for the demand for housing. The procedures are going on; it has not been decided whether the house will be allotted through the government's LIFE Mission housing scheme or the Chengara package. We prefer the house as promised in Chengara package,” Raju added. Raju has quit his profession of carpentry due to his old-age ailments. The regular old-age pension has been a great relief for him, he said. His wife Sudhamani goes to work under the MGNREGA scheme. Their son Rajeev Kumar recently migrated to the middle-east for carpentry work.
Raju at his 25 cent land
Raju’s neighbours Madhavi and her son Saji were first allotted land in Mannarkad Taluk of Palakkad district in 2010. Similar to the case of Raju and his Family, the 50-cent land was non-habitable. As natives of Palode, in Peringammala gram panchayat, they were happy to accept the land near their place. “We returned the land allotted and went on a struggle at the Secretariat again in 2013. The land was returned and we were assured land in the Thiruvananthapuram district. The authorities informed only 25 cents could be allotted in the district. But, it is better to live near our native place, that is why we happily accepted when the land was allotted here in 2019,” Madhavi and Saji told NewsClick.
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