Odisha Sun Times Bureau,
Koraput, Aug 24:
Innocent and poor Dalit farmers had been worst affected in the Naxal inflicted Narayanpatna tehsil of Koraput district in Odisha. Out of constant terror and uncertainty, thousands of Dalit families had no option but to leave their ancestral villages – leaving behind their homestead and farmland with half-harvested crops and fruit-laden orchards. Though these Dalit families lived there and cultivated the land for generations, they had to keep their lips tight when their lands were grabbed by groups of some Naxal backed outfit which launched a drive to evict all non-tribals from their land in Narayanpatna. These families had to leave because they did not have legal title to their land.
But what happened to these families? Some families migrated; some managed a hideout in the nearby forest. They struggled hard to survive with insecurity of food and shelter while their own lands were lying fallow and their homesteads remained deserted. Infant, young and old – died of malnutrition and disease.
The terror prevailed for years. Braving all odds, the ousted families continued to live in exile.
But hope now glimmered again for 337 such Dalit families recently when they received legal titles to their land through the state government’s land-to-landless programme supported by Landesa, a global non-profit working towards securing land rights for the poor. The programme uses local literate youth trained to work as Community Resource Persons (CRPs), locally known as Bhumi-Sanjojaks. The Bhumi- Sanjojaks have conducted a household survey to enumerate the landless families in the area and assisted the revenue officials in the process of allocating land to these landless families.
The land titles have served as passports for these families to come back to their homeland in Dumusil, Godraguda, Tala Gumandi, Jamukoli and Bijaghati villages of Narayanpatna. Among these families, 100 are woman-headed families which lived in extreme poverty. Their children could not access basic education as they failed provide a residential certificate and caste certificate – mandatory documents for enrolment in state-run schools providing free education to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe children.
With the support of the Bhumi-Sanjojaks, it will now be an easier home-coming for these Dalit families. The Bhumi-Sanjojaks are making all efforts to help these families benefit from government schemes and programmes such as getting starter kits of seeds, farm-inputs and training on vegetable farming from Horticulture Department, land development through MGNREGS, housing, sanitation and other assistance to start their life and livelihood afresh. After years of deprivation, these Dalit families are all set to leave their days of deprivation behind and look forward to better days ahead.