Vadodara, January 24 (ANI) Bhavsingh Rathwa owns a house in Kevdi Village, Taluka Chotta Udaipur in the Vadodara district of Gujarat. He was jobless and insecure, and family in tow, would wander around the neighboring towns in search of livelihood. They would spend days in Ahmedabad, Nadiad, and Anand - without knowing where the next day would take them. The family worked as daily-wage labourers, taking up any job that came their way.
But today, Rathwa is the proud owner of two acres of land, a mini tempo, buffalos and a 'pucca' house. The transition in his life came in 1997-98 when Eklavya Sangathan, earlier known as 'Land Right Protection Committee,' took on the onus of changing the migration pattern of people like Rathwa.
The serious issue of displacement and migration had gripped the entire state at the time and Eklavya Sanghathan was trying to make some headway in resolving this matter. If one gets all the required opportunities at one's own place, why would one move out? One of the major reasons for migration was the lack of cultivable land and alternative income generating opportunities. The organization committed itself to providing land titles to the cultivators themselves. Various programmes were undertaken to make sure that the land cultivated by people before 1980 should rightfully be owned by them.
The efforts of the organization finally paid off when the state government passed a resolution allotting four hectares of land, approximately ten acres, for those farmers who had been cultivating such land prior to 1980. This act changed the lives of many displaced and migrant labourers like Rathwa and his family.
The biggest asset that Rathwa earned is self-confidence and a secure future for his family.
Like Rathwa, Chandriya, who grazed cattle, was forced to move to Kutch in search of work as he was under the burden of a huge loan. Today, he owns over an acre of land, has ten goats, cultivates pulses and corn and doesn't need to borrow money.
In Kevdi village itself, 71 of the 250 families are proud owners of forest land. Savalabhai, Budhiyabhai, Sanabhai and Bachubhai have received one acre of land. They have planted mangoes, chickoo, pear, mahuda, corn, pulses and brinjal, among other crops.
Dobachapra, next to Kevdi village, saw 19 people receive benefits from this legislation. Gandhi ji had said" Until and unless the poorest of the poor doesn't get the benefit, it is not considered development in any form". This saying was imbibed by Ekalavya which ensured that benefits reach the poorest. The struggle for forest land made people aware of their rights and taught them to raise their voice against injustice.
According to the new Forest Rights Act, those who cultivated land till 16th December, 2005 are entitled to ownership of land. The state government has implemented this act in Vadodara where titles of land have been given to 1744 tribal farmers. The provision of the act has been used to provide road connectivity to 30 villages for which acquisition of forest land was required.
In the larger context, this is not just an issue of land but is directly linked to poverty. Once land titles are regularized, these tribal farmers will be able to truly make their contribution to the nation's economy. For them, food security will become more assured, nutrition of the entire family will improve and many of them will be able to come out of debt. The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that their love for forest and nature will help sustain the ecosystem as they will use the resources wisely. These people belong to the land and yes, the land too must rightfully belong to them.
The views expressed in the article are that of the author Sanjay Dave. (ANI)