Sonbhadra and thereafter in U.P.
Recent incident of killing of eleven Gond tribals including three women and injuring many by the landlord to forcefully occupy his alleged 90 bighas of land has shaken the national conscience .Landlord Yagyadutt Bhurtiya also the Pradhan of Umbha Gram Panchayat in Sonbhadra district went with his 300 henchmen with guns in 31tractors in day time and fired on longtime cultivators of land on 18th July, 2019.This brings out to have introspection at the implementation of land reform measures in U.P.
The crux of this land dispute is that Bhurtiya had purchased this 90 bighas of land two years back from one Mishra family members who had in the past managed to get these lands mutated in their names in place of Adarsh Co-operative Society though the tribals had been all along cultivating a total of 600 bighas of land including this land. As per the U.P. Large Land Holding Tax Act,1956 the land belongs to the co-operative society and can not be claimed by the persons who had put these land into the co-operative society and he had ceased to have any interest in his lands and did not remain landholder any longer. Thus Mishras had no valid title to sell these lands so also Yagyadutt Bhuriya gets no title to land which he is claiming. Even their share in the co-operative society can not be divided under the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950. These lands are to be vested in government because the aims and objectives of co-operative society or a public charitable or religious trust, endowment or institution are not being met also under the U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act. No beneficiary wholly or partly can be from the settler, share holder or members of his family.
Such provisions are there in almost all ceiling laws across various States .In some States like Kerala and West Bengal, the cultivator of land, if eligible gets first right to allotment of government vested land which goes to panchayat for settlement through the Land Management Committee. Tribal landless persons get first priority in allotment of land all over India. How the Gond tribals were overlooked. However,in U.P., heir of army personnel killed in enemy action has first preference and then landless agricultural labourer belonging to a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe has priority over others. It is therefore, surprising how this land was mutated in personal names. This calls for severe administrative actions against revenue officials who were involved in this illegal act .On the other hand, these lands should be screened under the U.P. Ceiling Act and Benami Transaction Prohibition Act. When the excess ceiling lands of ex Prime Minister Narsimha Rao during his tenure as P.M. can be vested in Andhra Pradesh, can this land not be vested in U.P.?
Things in U.P. are different. Lower level revenue machinery starting from the Lekhpal in connivance with the landlords or otherwise for ulterior purpose can do anything. They confuse their superior revenue officers including Collector as if nothing can be done without the order of the appropriate court. They also manipulate reports to police to make them inactive. The superior revenue officers have neither the time nor the understanding or zeal to protect the poor cultivators specially in this globalization era. Though Government of U.P. has taken a programme to distribute land to the landless persons but the results are not encouraging.
In this energy conglomerate district of India and nearby areas, the problem is more acute. Apart from landlord-cultivator dispute, there is a huge chunk of land of thousands of hectare lying unutilized after acquisition by government for thermal power plants as surplus. This surplus land is a bone of frequent clashes among land-mafia (Bhu-Mafia). If these lands are not taken over by State and distributed among the landless persons, it will be a potential source of law and order problem. Naxalites are already having an eye over such land problems.
Therefore,as soon as the problem surfaced in Sonbhadra district is attended to not only a law and order problem but also as a problem due to non-implementation of land reforms, better it is.