Orissa: Fact-finding Report on Durmisi Village, Kalahandi District

February 14, 2012

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Fact Finding Report of CSD (Campaign for Survival and Dignity), Odisha on Village Durmisi, Gopinathpur G.P. Under Thuamul Rampur Block of Kalahandi District. CSD is a national level campaign group which fought for the recognition of forest rights in the country and instrumental in the enactment of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 by the Parliament.

Click here for full report [27 pages, PDF] »

In the following excerpt, the background of the visit, the most important findings, and the recommendations are provided – Ed.

Background

A fact finding team from CSD, Odisha consisting of 6 members visited the village Durmusi, G.P Gopinathpur, Block Thuamul Rampur of Kalaandi district on 29th Nov 2011. The fact finding visit was based on the news report of the Pioneer “Company goons raze 56 tribal houses in K’ handi’ written by Bikas Khemka/Bhawanipatna on dated 13th October 2011 and the discussion in the Group mail “KBK O’ Table”. It was reported in the news that 56 houses of the tribal in the Baphlimali Hill of Thuamul Rampur block were destroyed by the Utkal Alumina goons.

It was further reported that “In the village Durmusi in Gopinathpur area under Thuamul Rampur block, the forest-dwellers used to live on the Baflamali hill after getting land pattas (ROR) from the State Government under the Forest Rights Act.” Before visiting the site, we also interacted with different persons from civil society organisations working in the area who also informed us that in the same village people have also got titles under Vasundhara land distribution scheme as per Orissa Government Land Settlement (OGLS) Act. Thus the objective of the fact finding visit was to know the fact behind the whole incident. In the first visit, we could go to the village Durmusi and interacted/discussed with the villagers of Durmusi, Suryagrah and other neighboring villages. We also collected information on the titles issued under FRA and homestead land titles issued under Vasundhara scheme, copies of the notice served by the Tahasildar, Thuamul-Rampur to the 56 people for cancelling the titles issued under Vasundhara scheme. Besides, we also took photograph of the village, hills and people of the village. In the second visit we could interact with the Sub-Collector, Bhawanipatna and Tahsildar, Thuamul Rampur. We interacted with them on the case and also collected more information on it.

Important Issues Identified

1. Most of the lands in the scheduled 5th areas have been recorded in the name of Govt. during survey and settlement despite of the fact that these lands have been under the continuous occupation, possession, cultivation and dependency of the local people. This is evident from the Govt. records in general and from RoR status analysis of the village Durmusi in particular where 94.31% of total village land has been recorded as government land.

2. Even in the scheduled 5th areas, most of the government land has been recorded in the non-leasable categories i.e un-cultivable waste land (Abada Ajogya Anabadi) where land cannot easily be settled against the occupiers. This is evident from the fact that out of the total Government land in the village, the percentage of land put in the AAA in the village Durmusi is 99.61%, In the village Suryagarh it is 98.11% and in the village Kanarpas it is 95.27% etc.

3. Most of the people residing in the area(Thuamul Rampur) are landless as per their landholding pattern/OLR Act, 1960. However, it has been seen that the Govt. of Orissa is not serious on distributing “Agricultural land” in the scheduled 5th areas and just involved in distributing “Homestead land” (Up to 4 to 10 decimal) only leaving large area for the private companies.

4. In case of distribution of homestead land under Vasudhara scheme in the village, starting from distribution of 56 land titles to serving notices for its cancellation, whatever mistake was done, it was done by the revenue administration(Tahasildar) of the area. From the report it is clearly evident that how the district/revenue administration works in the area. ……When they had to please the CM, within night they got a number of titles ready to be distributed by the CM without bothering on where the plot is, what is the status of those plots etc. And the same administration so easily issued notices to the people for cancelation of those titles hiding the facts and using its autonomous power.

5. In case of distribution of titles under FRA in the area including the village Durmusi, No procedures of FRA has been properly followed. FRA titles have been just issued to the tribals without proper verification of the plots in the ground. This ground reality duly admitted by the administration reveals the fact that field verification has not been done in most of the cases in the area which will led to “nothing good” but to serious conflicts within the community in feature.

6. The very process of leasing of village/community land to the private companies by the State/district administration without the prior informed consent/knowledge of the fellow villagers have been a negative practice in the State. The “Public Hearing” process for community land alienation has been a “farce” in the State which is quiet evident from the “Public Hearing” conducted for mining in Baphalimali area held on 17.10 2006 at Kashipur Block where signatures of one MLA, one ex-MLA, three PRI members, four government officials including of Collector, one representative each from the State Pollution Control Board, MoEF, Steel & Mines Dept. and 14 signatures of the those who participated and deliberated in the Public hearing were taken. In the process, the procedures laid down in the Central PESA Act, 1996 empowering the local community people over their resources in the Scheduled 5th areas have been totally violated.

7. The reaction of the neighboring villagers over the distribution homestead land under Vasundhara Scheme to the outsiders (other than inhabitants of Durmusi) is quite justified. The community lands of the village Durmusi belongs to its villagers. All the villages in the area are having plenty of government waste land which could have been distributed amongst the landless families in their respective villages.

Recommendations

1. The concentration of most of the land in the scheduled 5th areas needs to be changed. The Govt. of Odiasha should be serious enough to do proper re-Survey, and Settlement of available community land against the landless households of the villages/areas as per the possession and after the due consultation and recommendations of the villages. (Through the Gram Sabha).

2. Possession over Land distributed under Vasundhara Scheme to the 22 inhabitants/people of village Durmusi should be restored immediately and land distributed to people of other 7 neighboring villages from the area of village Durmusi by the Tahasildar, Thuamul Rampur without the knowledge and recommendation of concerned villagers should be cancelled. Since enough community lands are available in all most all the villages of the area, they should be distributed land in their respective villages.

3. Proper ground verification should be immediately done by the Sub- Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) over the land distributed under “Forest Rights Act” in the area including the village Durmusi.

4. Since the area is coming under scheduled 5th area, the local community people/villagers are recognized as the owner and custodian of the land available in the villages and they are capable and better manager of their natural resources. Accordingly, the community land/village lands leased out to the Utkal Alumina without the prior informed consent of the concerned villagers should be cancelled.

5. As the case is pending before the Honorable High Court of Odisha, the Govt. should plead before the Court to lift “Stay Order” and distribute land amongst the fellow villagers.

6. The Revenue Administration involved in Mal-administration should be punished as per the laws.

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