The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tribals to get back lost land
- Task force formed, 1500 identified

Ranchi, June 6: For the first time in several decades, 1,500 tribals, who had been displaced from their ancestral land and properties, would be given back physical possession of their land under an action plan drawn up by the land revenue department.

Additional collector (land revenue) Sunil Kumar Singh told The Telegraph that a special task force has been constituted, comprising district and police officials, which would begin its campaign of handing back the illegally seized land back to their original owners from tomorrow.

Singh said 1,500 tribals in Ranchi district alone have been identified who would be granted physical possession of their land.

Of these, the bulk of 892 cases relate to the state capital and its immediate precincts.

Sources pointed out that despite stringent provisions in the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, which prohibits transfer of tribal land to outsiders, both force and allurement have been common ploys used by non-tribals to grab tribal land.

The more popular methods used to grab land included marrying tribal girls, buying tribal land in their names and later disposing them at hefty profits, ante-dated power-of-attorneys and even zamindari orders that were used to transfer thousands of acres of tribal land to outsiders and even to housing cooperatives.

In most cases, the tribal girls, in whose names the plots of land were bought, were dumped.

There have been several cases, especially in the far-flung areas of the state, where non-tribals have threatened the tribals into giving away their land. Any attempt to fight back by the tribals has usually been suppressed ruthlessly with the use of force.

Though the tribals slowly became aware of their rights over the years, those away from the cities were helpless as they did not know whom to approach with their problems.

A microscopic minority, who later mustered courage to take recourse to the law, were even awarded with favourable rulings by the Special Area Regulation Courts, along with the appellate courts of additional collectors and the deputy commissioner, Ranchi.

However despite favourable court orders, a survey by the local district administration established that 1,500 such tribals, unable to match physical and money power of the illegal occupants, have continued to remain dispossessed from their land.

The additional collector (land revenue) said the state would use physical force, if needed, to restore possession of land, to the original owners.

In the first phase, land, including that for agricultural purpose, which is still lying vacant and on which no construction exists, would be restored. In the second phase, pucca buildings, illegally constructed on such land, would be targeted. Housing co-operatives, which have grabbed tribal land, would be covered in the final phase.

Where structures exist, he said the land, along with the illegally erected structures thereon, would be handed over to the original owners.

In case of all agricultural land to be restored, an ex-gratia grant of Rs 5,000 would be given by the state to the tribal owner to help him take up farming on such land all over again.

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