This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“If We Lose Our Land, Where Do We Go?”

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Shirish Khare:

“They said our life will change for the better, but they have betrayed us,” says Pritam Kunjam of Junwani village. “After taking our land, officials have given us back only a small portion on lease and tried to make us believe that is all we own. Some of us have lost our homes, farms and yards. But what we have truly lost is our grasslands, forests, public land, cemeteries and playgrounds. We have been going to the government offices to get our land back for months.”

The people of Junwani in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh, 140 kilometres from Raipur, launched a struggle in December 2015 to get their land back. They are fighting for their entitlements under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, or the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The legislation, enacted in December 2006, came into force on January 1, 2008.  The FRA provides for restitution of traditional forest rights to forest inhabitants across India. It grants community rights to use minor forest produce and grazing lands, and individual titles to land that Adivasis were farming as on December 13, 2005.

While the Chhattisgarh government claims to be ahead of other states in leasing lands under the FRA, data presented at a workshop on forest rights held on November 15, 2015 in Raipur, where both state and union government officials were present, points to a different reality.

The state government has dismissed 60 per cent of individual claims by Adivasis in the past seven years – or around 512,000 such claims made under the FRA. And contrary to the law, which stipulates 2.5 acres per adult, the Chhattisgarh government has only recognised an average of 2 acres of forestland per family.

When 44 per cent of the land in Chhattisgarh is forested, not granting these rights to people who are entitled to them becomes even more significant. Data presented at the same workshop showed that Tripura and Kerala have dismissed only 34 per cent of similar individual claims.

If we lose our land - article image 1
Women have not been given any land in Junwani, while other villagers have been shortchanged.

Junwani has 265 voters according to its panchayat voters’ list – 662 acres are due to them as individual rights.  But local activist Benipuri Goswami says that “decades-old records are being used and only 180 acres have been given on individual leases.” Madhu Sarin, president of the executive committee of Vasundhara, a Bhubaneswar-based research and policy group on environment and sustainability issues, says, “Our law allows an adult 2.5 acres of land, but they have given a smaller area, that too only in the name of the father.”  Women have not been given any land in Junwani, Kunjam says. “Not a single woman’s name has been registered.” And, he says, no identification or map has been provided along with the leases.

Chhattisgarh has also not declared the number of community leases (these are different from individual titles) the state will grant. “Though there is a provision in the law, the government isn’t giving land for community leasing,” Benipuri says. Under community leasing, according to the data presented at the same workshop in Raipur, Gujarat has distributed 280 acres of forestland on average per village, Karnataka’s average is 260 acres, Maharashtra’s is 247 acres and Telangana’s is 676 acres.

Additionally, in January 2014, Chhattisgarh announced its decision to turn 425 forest villages into revenue villages. This was done ostensibly to bring them into the ‘mainstream’ and facilitate ‘development’, but the people living there were not consulted during this process. And when the revenue and forest departments both claim jurisdiction over the same land, the Adivasis are doubly concerned their forest rights might get buried in this departmental tussle. “A thousand acres of land belong to the village,” Kunjam says, “which cannot be given to any department or private sector.”

However, Rajesh Sukumar Toppo, director, department of scheduled castes and tribes, has emphasised that Chhattisgarh is “ahead in the game when it comes to individual leasing but now preference will be given to community leasing.” He says that on November 20, 2015, the chief secretary directed the collectors to assist the community leasing process, and that “such lands will also be included in the records.”

The state’s minister of forests Mahesh Gagda said in an interview with this author, “The tribal community gets [forest] land on lease much more easily than non-tribal people. As it is, the land is distributed at the village level [based on recommendations made by the gram sabha and not by the government. But many claims are being cancelled and these complaints are being reviewed.”

If we lose our land - article image 2
Even as the Adivasis of Dhamtari fight for their forest rights, in just five years more than 150,000 acres have been allotted to mining in Chhattisgarh.

But Indu Netam of the Adivasi Samta Manch, Raipur, says, “The government is playing the vote-bank game. Statistics show that the leasing process was almost at a standstill for three years after 2009. However, at the time of the 2013 elections, 100,000 leasing procedures were reportedly completed within a year. Now the process has slowed down again.”

Even as the Advasis of Dhamtari hammer on the state’s doors to get the rights promised to them under the FRA, 186,000 acres of forest land in Chhattisgarh were diverted to industries between 2005-2010, according to the annual report of the mining department placed before the state legislature. Of this diverted land, 97 per cent was marked for mining.

The Forest Survey of India records that 233,000 acres of forest areas in the state had already been given for mining between 1997 and 2007. The annual reports of the central and state mining departments indicate that in 2014 alone, minerals worth Rs. 20,841 crores were extracted in Chhattisgarh.

The government’s priorities are clear. Meanwhile, as Pritam Kunjam says, “If we lose our land, where do we go?”

This article has been republished from Rural India Online.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Krithiga Narayanan

By Ria Gupta

By Puja Bhattacharjee

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below