PACS has been supporting socially excluded communities to claim land rights under various State-level revenue land rights policies. Revenue land (or "commons" land) is non-forest land. Revenue land rights provide food, livelihood and legal security for these communities.
There are three types of revenue land:
Various state-specific revenue land acts have been approved, including the Land Reform and Ceiling Surplus Act, which has been passed in all seven states where PACS works. This limits the maximum area that one landholder can own. The additional surplus land should be distributed by local governments to landless families.
Helping communities to access their rights to homestead land has been the main priority for PACS although we do work on the other two issues.
These dalit villagers from Salaha village in Bihar had a record of their land rights provided to them under the Bihar Land Ceiling Act (1961). With support from PACS partner SSEVS, they now have possession of the land that is rightfully theirs.
Socially excluded groups often live and work on land that they don’t own. 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”.
The land that landless communities live on and farm on is usually marginal – on the outskirts of communities in unproductive or undesirable areas. Cut off and discriminated against, many communities are therefore completely unaware about their rights and entitlements.
Without the rights to their homestead land, landless households are at constant risk of eviction. There is therefore little point for these families to invest in a permanent house and other assets, as they could be thrown off the land at any time.
Without the rights to agricultural land, anything a household grows legally belongs to the landowner. However, because the land that is cultivated by socially excluded households tends to be marginal, productivity is low and so it is often not enough to make a living from. Many landless people therefore work as agricultural labourers being paid a pittance to work on someone else’s land.
Excluded communities also regularly face discrimination in accessing common property land. For example, Scheduled Caste (SC) communities may not be able to wash or collect water at the same time as higher caste communities, or may be prevented from using specific ponds or grazing areas.
Illiteracy is also high within socially excluded communities and so, without help and support, it is hard for them to understand and fill out the necessary paperwork to claim their rights.
PACS has been working on the issue of revenue land rights with 41 Civil Society Organisation (CSO) partners in six states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh) covering 54 districts.
PACS has been supporting communities to claim their revenue land rights and entitlements by:
In Bihar, the Government has drafted a Right to Homestead Act. PACS helped to set up a Joint Land Reforms Core Committee and has been working with the Government of Bihar’s Revenue and Land Reforms Department to ensure that people’s recommendations are taken into account in the final Act.
The Land Reforms Core Committee also helped the government to launch two campaigns:
Thanks to the work of PACS and partner Deshkal Society, 46 mahadalit families in Bilond village, Bihar, have successfully applied for their rights to homestead land and are enjoying the newfound security that this brings.
Find more Land Rights case studies on the PACS Learning Zone.