Land and Forest Rights

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It is estimated that 8.3% of India’s rural population are landless – this means that over 72 million people do not have secure legal rights to the land that they live and work on. PACS has been working to help socially excluded communities to understand, apply for and claim their rights to forest land and revenue land whilst also working with State governments to improve land claim processes.

What are land rights and why are they important?

Land rights are the rights of people to the land that they live on, work on or use, either individually or collectively. Land rights are important for families, communities and economies.

They provide families and communities with a range of different securities:

  • Legal security – land rights certificates (or pattas) prove that a household or community legally owns a defined area of land, making it illegal for others to evict them from it, or to use it without permission.
  • Food security – families who have the rights to their land are able to invest in making their land more agriculturally productive, with the knowledge that any crop increases will be theirs.
  • Livelihood security – households with land rights can build up their assets, investing in buildings, animals and other resources that will help them to develop and grow their livelihoods and their incomes.
  • Cultural security – for many communities, having the rights to the land on which they have lived for generations provides them with security in protecting their land-based ways of life, identities and traditions.
  • Social security – owning a piece of land provides a household with an identified permanent address, leading to dignity and an increased social status, making them more likely to be included in decision-making and able to access other government welfare schemes.

Land rights are also important for economies as it is proven that countries that have invested in efficient and equitable land tenure administration (ensuring property rights for both men and women) have developed much faster and have a much higher level of food security, health and welfare.

Why are land rights an issue for socially excluded groups?

Out of the 3.28 million square kilometres of land in India, the World Bank estimates that 60.3% of land is agricultural (i.e. arable, under permanent crops or under permanent pastures) and 23.1% of land is forest land.

68% of the rural population is employed in agriculture or agricultural-related activities. However, the majority of the rural population is landless or “mere landless” (owning less than 0.002 hectares).

Those from socially excluded groups – mainly Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and women - make up the majority of the landless population working as agricultural labourers. Indeed, according to the draft paper of the Ninth Five-Year Plan (2007-2012), 77% of SCs and 90% of STs are either “absolute landless” or “mere landless”.

Although the Indian government has various policies aimed at tackling the problem of landlessness, there are no measures aimed at overcoming the specific barriers that socially excluded groups face in leasing or owning land – namely the discrimination that they face due to their social identities. PACS has therefore been specifically supporting Civil Society Organisation (CSO) partners to challenge and change this.

Find out more about the history of land ownership in India.

What work has PACS done on land rights?

PACS partners have been working on two main aspects in regards to land rights:

Forest Rights 

Helping Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers to demand their rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

Revenue Land Rights 

Helping socially excluded groups to claim their homestead and agricultural revenue land rights.

What impact has PACS land rights work had?

  • 1846 Community Based Organisations (CBOs) specifically working on land and/or forest rights issues have been formed and supported by PACS partners.
  • 124,500 households have been supported to claim for their Individual Forest Rights, out of which 35,012 Individual Forest Rights titles have been received.
  • 3418 Community Forest Rights claims have been submitted. Of these, 1201 have been received.
  • 69,466 households have been helped to submit homestead land claims, and 55,228 homestead land claims have been received.
  • 14,163 agricultural land claims have been applied for, out of which 2639 have been given.
  • 4985 training and sensitisation events have been held on the subject of forest rights and revenue land rights, attended by a range of people including PACS partner staff, government officials, the media and CBO members.
  • 1501 advocacy meetings have been held with government officials and other stakeholders on the subject of land rights, leading to 289 recommendations on land rights being proposed.



Find more Land and Forest Rights case studies on the PACS Learning Zone.

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