04.09.2012

‚Give us land for our survival’ – AWO International Partner MSS organises public hearing for landless Musahar in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.


Almost 80% of the population of Uttar Pradesh lives in rural areas, spread over nearly 100.000 villages. Land (and agriculture) is therefore the single most important resource in Uttar Pradesh and necessary livelihood for the bigger part of the State’s population. The per-capita availability of land is however steadily declining; the average size of land holding in Uttar Pradesh is less than one hectare.

 

For most of the Musahar – former untouchables, who live in the border area to Nepal in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and face a challenging life due to century-long social and economic marginalisation – one hectare of land is a distant dream. Stripped off their rights because of their social status and often exploited as day labourers on rich landowners’ farms, for them, the problem is to avail of some land at all in order to secure their livelihood. And this despite the fact that a lot of unused revenue land is available in Uttar Pradesh. But land disputes, a slow and often inefficient bureaucracy and wide-spread corruption usually stand in the way of a proper use of the land and its distribution to the landless.

 

Manav Seva Sansthan (MSS), AWO International’s local implementing partner in the project ‘Towards Inclusive Development of the Musahar Community’, fights for the rights of the Musahar and attempts to enable them to avail of their rightful entitlements. MSS therefore advocates that more and more Musahar get land to secure their livelihood. On 8 of August 2012 MSS organised a public hearing in the presence of the Sub Divisional Magistrate in charge of Nichlaul Block of Uttar Pradesh’s Maharajgunj-District (project area) in order to provide an opportunity to the Musahar to assert their entitlements to land, to complain about irregularities in the distribution of land and, more general, to gain insight into the process of land distribution. The public hearing, which was prepared in several meetings of the Musahar Community Based Organisations (CBOs) that had been created by the project and was accompanied by a lot of awareness raising among the Musahar, got the support from Sub Divisional Magistrate as well as from the local authorities. It took place in Badhra Charganha, in the midst of the project area of the joint MSS/AWO International project. Almost 250 participants, mainly Musahar, discussed the manifold aspects and problems involved in land distribution, conciliated land disputes and demanded clarifications from the government representatives present.

 

The public hearing was a success. It not only helped to clarify controversial issues and to provide transparency in the process of land distribution, but also saw 17 Musahar families actually getting their land entitlements and certifications. The government representatives present also assured to identify further land to be distributed to needy Musahar. In addition, in the course of the public hearing, an agreement was made to monitor the distribution of goods in the context of the Public Distribution System more closely and to orient it towards the needs of the Musahar.

 

After the public hearing MSS organised a meeting of the Musahar CBOs to discuss and evaluate the results of the hearing. It was agreed that further attempts to assert Musahar land rights should be encouraged. One positive result of the hearing was the fact that it was planned and conducted with the participation of the Musahar CBOs, which enables them to articulate and safeguard their interests more and more on their own. MSS and AWO International will continue to campaign for land for the Musahar’s survival.

Musahar village of Kaniswa