Land Accquisition

For hundreds of generations certain groups in India were landless and totally dependent on the upper castes. Their children worked as child laborers. Dalits and other marginalized groups were oppressed. Land is vital for people to progress towards independence.

Since the 1950s, a violent land-rights movement (the “Naxalites”, or “Maoists”) has fought for a wider distribution of land.

NASA is taking the people to their promised land. More than 90,000 acres of land that belongs to the Andhra Pradesh state government is occupied by upper caste communities that wield political influence. NASA has educated and encouraged Dalits to demand the government release the land to the landless, as it should under Indian law, so that they can stand on their own feet and be liberated.

NASA encouraged the acquisition of land in the area, in a massive scale, Christian Aid, Bread for the World, EED supported this program. Several agitations, hard drives, people are now strengthened, united to acquire hill slopes, government lands and ceiling lands from the unauthorized encroachments of the dominated communities.

So far, 28,000 acres has been awarded to Dalits and other landless people thanks to NASA and its success tapping 90% of the funds for these lands’ development from the Indian Scheduled Caste Corporation for Development.

NASA, through its community organization programs, motivated people to acquire, reclaim and develop land. There were many attacks on these people but the fruits of marching with unity towards liberation is seen in many faces. However, 62,000 acres of land remains in the grip of the upper castes.

It has become clear to the Dalits that economic independence is important for gaining social equality. In order for them to become independent they know they need their own land. NASA has encouraged them to claim riverbeds, hill tracks, and other marginal or unclaimed government lands awaiting distribution and then develop them. NASA has installed irrigation systems, the first NGO to do so in Andhra Pradesh state, with the financial help of the government. It has also obtained saplings and cuttings from the social forestry department, and then helped the Dalits turn these wastelands into mango, cashew nut, and coconut groves.

NASA provides the required tools and fertilizers. Currently, about 15,000 acres of land is being developed by the Dalits. However, more than 50,000 acres of land on the hill tops is still available for development. NASA is searching for agencies to support this program.

The German non-profit consultancy FAKT visited India to study the strategies and methods adopted by NASA to attain Dalit Empowerment, in particular through land acquisition and development. They understood that the real empowerment of any section of people happens when social and economic programs go together.

Kakarapalli Village – Case Study
In Kakaralapalli village in Kotananduru mandal 45 Dalit families have been living on the village common land (gram panchayath land) for more than 100 years. They have thatched houses and constructed shelters for their animals and until recently did not have any problems living there. In April 2007, however, village elders, with the support of local politicians, occupied the land by obtaining a legal holding.

The Dalit community resisted strongly, stating they had been living on the land for generations. The dispute intensified but the village elders did not start developing the land because of the unexpected Dalit resistance. The Dalits found out that revenue department personnel and political leaders were behind the so-called upper caste community. Then they started fighting against the government and their legal claim to the land.

After many protests and agitations including a furious discussion with the local revenue department, the Dalit community again occupied the land on 29th October 2007, constructed their houses and started living there. Now the revenue officials are examining how to hand over the land to Dalits.

Jilledupadu Village:
In Jilledupadu village in Tuni mandal Dalits have no house plots and live on the outskirts of the village in very bad conditions without drinking water, sanitation or transport facilities. In 2007, the community asked the panchayath (village administration) to improve their living conditions but the panchayat said it could not because the Dalit community was far from the village.

From then onwards, Dalits looked for some place within the village limits to construct their houses. But they could not identify any land within the village. In September 2007, revenue officials promised land to the Dalits if they identified any suitable land within the village.

That same month the revenue personnel conducted a land survey and found that a Mr. Appa Rao had been illegally occupying two acres of government land for 11 years. The Dalit Sangham federation (DPIS) took up the case and local officials took back the land and redistributed it to the 20 Dalits families of the village so they could construct their houses.

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