Civil society and governance case study of land distribution programme to Kol tribals in Chitrakot district Uttar Pradesh

Civil society and governance case study of land distribution programme to Kol tribals in Chitrakot district Uttar Pradesh

The politics of land distribution in India

The Kol tribals of Chitrakoot district live a life of abject poverty, exploitation and almost complete subjugation to the feudal landowners, locally known as Dadus. A local civil society organisation, the Akhil Bhartiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan (ABSSS) has adopted a multi-pronged approach to simultaneously address three sets of issues which it felt were crucial for improving the lot of the Kols. These were:

  • creating awareness among the Kols about their own situation and the need for organised effort to break the shackles of feudal exploitation
  • creating awareness among the wider society, including the government machinery at the district and state levels, about the grinding poverty, misery and exploitation of the Kols
  • and taking up specific development programmes on its own, and influencing the government system on behalf of the Kols, to ensure that the benefits of development and welfare programmes actually reach the people for whom they are intended
This case study deals with the programme of distribution of land Pattas (titles) to Kol tribals in Chitrakoot district of southern Uttar Pradesh. The ABSSS has played a leading role in the implementation of the government programme of providing land titles to the poor and socially disadvantaged sections of society, mainly scheduled castes and tribes in the district. This study focusses on the role of this organisation and its contribution to governance in the context of the specific programme.

The paper concludes by reflecting on how the study illustrates the tremendous odds against which any programme of economic uplift and empowerment of the poor and oppressed, especially in a tradition-bound by feudal social and economic order, has to contend. There is a clear clash between the philosophy of social justice and commitment to uplift the poor and the oppressed enshrined in the constitution and subscribed to by all major political parties on the one hand, and the actual implementation of legislation and programmes formulated to give flesh and blood to these constitutional directives on the other.

The success of the ABSSS has been built on the multi-pronged approach which it has adopted towards the problem. At one level, it has sought to make the Kols aware of their legal rights, especially to the land given on Patta to them and how they were being violated by the dominant feudal interests. It has also pursued the land cases of the Kols in the courts and provided legal assistance through legal aid camps organised by it. At another level, it has exerted pressure on the administration at the sub-division, district and state levels to force it to implement the land distribution programme in its true spirit. It has helped in spreading information about the condition of the Kols in Patha, and built alliances with other Civil Society Organisations in other parts of the country and with influential leaders, opinion and policy makers etc.

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