Land Rights for Women

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This model is being carried out for PACS by the Rural Development Institute (RDI) in 5 districts of West Bengal (Dakshin Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur) and 6 districts of Odisha (Kalahandi, Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Malkangiri, Nabarangapur and Rayagada). It focuses on 10000 landless families in West Bengal, and 12000 single women and female-headed households in Odisha.

Project summary

This model involves:

Project context

The very poorest households from excluded communities do not own land. Without secure land rights they are constantly at risk of eviction. As a result the families do not own permanent assets, like houses, because they know they may be moved off the land at any time.

Furthermore, being un-authorised occupants, these households cannot access government welfare services, bank credit, or become a member of an agricultural cooperative because the land they live on is not theirs.

Women typically do not own land in India – land rights and property deeds are traditionally owned by men - and patriarchal social practices prevent women from obtaining land rights under inheritance.

Single, widowed or separated women are particularly vulnerable as they are customarily excluded from many areas of life and subject to significant discrimination. Most live on the mercy of their relatives. They do not own any assets and are denied land rights because, on their own, they are not recognised as a “household”.

A piece of land can be the best strategy for landless households to escape poverty. Freedom from the threat of eviction means that they are able to invest in their land - to build a house, set-up an animal shed, plant trees, rear livestock, grow vegetables, and start a household enterprise. In addition, as landowners, they become entitled to housing support, domestic electricity connection, sanitation, drinking water, and other agri-horticultural support from local government.

Both models have been successfully piloted by RDI in Odisha and West Bengal in collaboration with local government. PACS funding is helping to scale-up these models to new areas.

Securing land titles in West Bengal

This model focuses on helping landless families to establish “convergent land sites”. These are homesteads built on land that is purchased and allocated under the Nijo Griho Nijo Bhumi (NGNB) government homestead programme. The homestead land rights and titles are given jointly to both a wife and her husband.

The homesteads are next door (convergent) to each other and, under NGNB, it is the responsibility of the local government’s Block Development Officer to carry out site and household development plans to address the needs of the families relocated to the new land site.

These development plans capture the government schemes that can be used, the budget required and the departments involved to ensure the provision of basic services like drinking water, sanitation, housing, roads, drainage, and seed and livestock support for all the homesteads in the area. The plans are then implemented by Block development administration.

RDI has already been working with the Land Reforms Department of West Bengal to implement NGNB and there has been a successful scale-up of land allocation under the scheme in most districts. However, whilst land allocation improved in the RDI pilot scheme, the actual re-location of households and support for their livelihoods remained a challenge.

In this model, RDI have created model sites in the project districts so that local government officials can visit them to understand how a convergent land site works. Local government officials are also supported by RDI staff who provide on-the-ground technical support and engage with local and district administration to help the administration process.

Land allocation and social security programmes in Odisha

This model specifically works to identify and support single women and female-headed households through Women’s Support Centres.

There is one centre per block. These centres are run by a Women’s Nodal Officer (WNO). She is responsible for identifying all the landless, single women or female-headed households in the area, with the help of Anganwadi workers who work with communities under the ICDS scheme.

Using the information provided by the Anganwadi workers, the WNO creates prioritised lists of all the women who are eligible for different government welfare schemes, including land allocation under the Vasundhara homestead allocation programme and food under the Public Distribution System.

Trained Community Resource Persons (CRPs) are linked to each centre, paid for by the government-funded Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Project. CRPs visit the eligible women, identified by the WNO, to help to measure the piece of land they live on and to follow up with the land administrators to complete the administrative process of land allocation.

Once the women have received their land rights, the CRPs then help them to increase the productivity of their land and to apply for other rights, like drinking water, sanitation and road connectivity through other government schemes.


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