इंडियन आवाज़     27 Sep 2023 11:16:05      انڈین آواز

Rural poor live on land sans hope

PATNA: Bureaucratic indifference, lack of information on the part of target beneficiaries of the housing scheme and legal impediments, together have combined to create huge rural "houselessness" or housing shortage in Bihar, which, as one survey has recently brought out, is the biggest of all the states in the country.

Incidentally, like in the case of abolition of zamindari (1950) and initiation of land reforms, Bihar was also the first of all the provinces in the country to pay attention to its problem of rural housing, as it passed the ‘Bihar Privileged Persons Homestead Tenancy Act, 1947.’ As the report ‘Right to Housing and Homestead Land in Rural Bihar’ brought out by Deshkal Society puts it, "Lands falling under the ambit of the 1947 Act originally belonged to a landowner who had allowed a person to reside on it. Such lands are known as `raiyati’ land."

However, a large number of houseless persons or families are those who are settled on ‘gairmajarua khas’ and ‘gairmajarua aam’ lands without having legal ownership and possession rights. The settlement of ‘gairmajarua aam’ land for housing purpose, or as homestead land to the person/family already living on it, or to be settled there, is a tedious operation.

It requires holding of Gram Sabha meeting, calling for objections if any, and finally, if no objection is there, the "case record is prepared, which goes to the government through the circle officer, SDO, district collector and divisional commissioner.

The Society report says, "The experience shows that administrative procedures and processes as well as the paper work required for acquiring the right to homestead land are so complex and cumbersome that it is very difficult for the rural poor to pursue and acquire their legal right." This civil society’s survey in 361 villages of Gaya district "revealed that the major reasons for not being able to successfully acquire ‘parcha’ and ‘parwana’ were lack of money, time, and administrative hurdles."

Interestingly, contrary to common knowledge, "major administrative hurdles faced by landless households were located at the Gram Panchayat and the block level itself. Almost 62 per cent of the households faced hurdles at the Gram Panchayat level and 32.27 per cent at the block level."

Obviously, the village and panchayat-level power relations irrespective of castes are skewed against the poor while the administrative apathy at the block-level reminds the beneficiaries running for the ‘parcha’ and ‘parwana’ of the popular saying, "Dilli door hai", whereafter they return to live in houses on lands that legally do not belong to them.

Needless to say, many a drop of blood have been shed or hutments have been torched by way of arson over the disputed possession of homestead land.

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