Only 3.3% of land in Odisha owned by women, says World Bank study

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 5:

Despite numerous efforts towards protecting the rights of women through pioneering state policy and programmes, women continue to be discriminated with regard to access and control over land in Odisha.

land to women

A recent World Bank study on Gender and Land Governance in Odisha reveals that a meagre 3.3 percent of land is owned by women, which is much below the national average of 13 percent.

Inaugurating the state level technical validation workshop on the study on Tuesday, G C Pati, Chief Secretary, assured that government of Odisha will seriously act upon the recommendations of the study to reduce the skewed distribution of land ownership. Besides, he said that no sustainable inclusive development can be achieved without addressing the land ownership rights of women, who constitute 50% of the population.

The study conducted by NRMC India for the World Bank aimed at examining women’s ownership over land and participation in land governance in line with FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines (VGGT). An in-depth analysis of legal, institutional framework and field situation of women’s land rights in six districts  of the state confirmed the data, which was cross-examined with census data to arrive at the final findings.

While the state claims that 6.75 lakh homestead patta have been distributed through various land programmes such as the Vasundhara  and Gramakantha Paramboke and an additional record in forest  rights recognition under FRA to 3.4 lakhs families – mostly joint titles, the study found that average allotment has been as less as 2 decimals per family. Interestingly, wherever given single title (about 12%), women on an average get less than 2 decimals of land. Single women, constituting mostly divorcee, widowed and unmarried above 30, could not possess the allotted land due to the distance of the land from their present location, delay in demarcation, absence of housing, sanitation support and socio-cultural practice.

The study found some initiatives by the state supported by NGOs such as the single women’s land rights through Women Support Centre programme implemented in four districts – Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, Koraput, Kalahandi – with support from Landesa; Sambhavana for recognising rights of women under FRA in Kandhamal by Vasundhara; and strengthening women federations for securing women’s land rights in Rayagada by PRADAN.

As per Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), among 10.6 lakh woman-headed households, 40% are landless who derive their major income from manual labour. “The state’s recent decision to conduct a fresh survey to identify homesteadless based on revised income ceiling of Rs 40,000 may not yield the desired result if it does not relook at the unrealistic deadline, limited staff capacity of Revenue Department, and consider concerted effort by the community, panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) and the civil society,” affirmed lead researcher Pranab Ranjan Choudhury of NRMC.

The state also needs to establish a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure possession of land by single women, recommended expert advisor, Dr T Haque, Chairman, CSD, New Delhi. He also emphasised the indispensable role of NIC and digitisation of land record database Bhulekh by adding ‘gender’ as an additional column to feed data.

Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 that recognizes equal rights of daughters in parent’s property, has remained a non-starter due to lack of awareness among women, taboos and deep-seated patriarchy.

Shashiprava Bindhani, State Information Commissioner, stressed on the need for awareness generation, capacity building and behaviour change of the field staff of revenue department. World Bank representative Satya Mishra, underlined the importance of Gender Equitable Land Governance in global context and reiterated the need for wider dissemination of the state’s best practices.