Revenue Land Rights

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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.

What are revenue land rights?

There are three types of revenue land:

  1. Common Property Resources – this is land that is used by the whole community (such as ponds, playgrounds or grazing lands). It belongs to the Gram Panchayat (local self-governance institution).
  2. Agricultural Land – this is land that is cultivated or farmed. It is owned by individuals, who tend to be from higher castes.
  3. Homestead Land – this is land that people live on (including their house, livestock quarters and kitchen gardens).

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.

http://www.pacsindia.org/case_studies/reclaiming-their-landsThese 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. 

Why are revenue land rights an issue for socially excluded groups?

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.

What work has PACS done on revenue land 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:

  • Helping households from socially excluded groups to apply for legal land titles to the land where they live (homestead land).
  • Supporting socially excluded groups to speak out against discrimination they face in accessing revenue land (such as the denial of agricultural land or demands for higher rent).
  • Promoting non-discriminatory control over common property resources like village grazing lands.
  • Assisting families to register for tenancy rights so that they cannot be evicted without warning.
  • Ensuring that surplus land (under the Land Reform and Ceiling Surplus Act) is allocated to landless households from socially excluded groups.
  • Helping socially excluded households to access inputs to enable them to develop their land and turn it into a productive asset.

What impact has PACS revenue land rights work had?

  • 33,749 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.
  • 1727 training and sensitisation events have been held on the subject of revenue land rights, attended by a range of people including PACS partner staff, government officials, the media and CBO members.
  • 669 advocacy meetings have been held with government officials and other stakeholders on the subject of revenue land rights, leading to 155 recommendations on revenue land rights being proposed.

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: 

  • “Operation Dakhal Dhayani” is a campaign to help families who don’t have possession over the land that they legally own.
  • “Operation Basera” is a campaign to provide legal rights for homestead land under the Homestead Act (up to 10 cents) and also to provide homestead land for Mahadalits by purchasing land from the open market and distributing the land to Mahadalit communities. On the recommendation of the Land Reforms Core Committee, the size of plot that Mahadalit communities can be given has increased from 3 cents to 5 cents.

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.


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