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Feb 10 2014

Landesa’s Telangana Land Caravan | Daily Photo Journal

February 18, 2014 — News Update: Indian Parliament Voting to Create New State of Telangana

On Tuesday, the Lower House of the Indian Parliament passed the bill to form the new state of Telangana in India. The Upper House is expected to pass the Bill on Wednesday.


Celebrations are already sprouting up in the hopes that Telangana’s land policy with provide every family with land with legal title in their hands and in their name.


Landesa has spoken with hundreds of people who would become citizens of the new state to find out what they want to see in Telangana’s land policy. Landesa will provide recommendations to the new state government based on the interviews we conducted in the last two weeks.


Here is a testimony from Sunil Kumar, Landesa India’s director of the region where Telangana is set to be located:

“I heard people’s strong aspiration for the Telangana state, their dream of “Golden Telangana” and their hopes of a bright future. Telangana is the land where Acharya Vinoba Bhave got the first land donation for distribution among the landless poor. Telangana is the land where farmers took up arms for securing land rights. Telangana is the land where Komuram Bheem, a tribal leader fought for land rights. Telangana is the land where several pro-poor land laws were enacted. I’m wishing for a state where there are no landless poor and all have secure rights to land.”


February 17, 2014 — DAY 12: Landesa Team Reflections

Tomorrow, Indian Parliament is going to discuss the Bill to form the new state of Telangana. Telangana could become a separate state in just a couple of days. Landesa teams travelled across the region for twelve days meeting thousands of people en-route and documented their voices in this daily photo journal. Today, we report what our team members have to say:

Route through Nalgonda, Khammam, and Warangal Districts

Route through Nalgonda, Khammam, and Warangal Districts. Landesa office is in Hyderabad.

“It is a rare and great opportunity for me and I am proud to be a part of it. Telangana Land Caravan is the true voice of the unheard.  It is a great opportunity to know and understand the problems and legal needs of the rural poor. These are the true reflections of the expectations of people. These people’s voices must guide the land administration in future Telangana.”
– D Rajesh Kumar, Advocate and Land Tenure Expert

“We need independent, accessible and transparent land adjudicating systems at all levels… Media should be proactively involved to spread awareness about land rights.”
– K Mallaiah, Advocate and Land Tenure Expert


Route through Medak, Nizamabad, and Karimnagar Districts.

“Almost all the land owners have some or the other land problem. And some of them even don’t know that they have a land problem. And independent land disputes settlement authorities should be constituted to address these problems… Resurvey should be taken up immediately based on existing enjoyment and by involving the community.”
– G Jeevan Reddy, Advocate and Land Tenure Expert

“The Land Caravan was very useful in knowing the land problems faced by the rural poor and what they think should be done. This exercise helps in framing pro-poor land policies and contributing to rebuilding of Telangana.”
– E Sudarshan, Advocate and Land Tenure Expert

Rangareddy & Mahabubnagar Districts

Route through Rangareddy and Mahabubnagar Districts

“People in Telangana are suffering with several land problems. People are demanding the reformation and strengthening of revenue administration and strict implementation of existing laws and rules.”
– Prabhakar Rao,   Advocate and Land Tenure Expert

“Resurvey and Updation of land records is the permanent solution to majority of existing land problems. Steps to regularize unregistered sale deeds can help thousands of poor. Village Revenue Officers’ lack of knowledge of laws and procedure is the important root cause of many land problems.”
– D Abhilash, Advocate and Land Tenure Expert

February 16, 2014 — DAY 11: The Big Picture

Today is the penultimate day on the road in the Telangana area, which may soon become a new state in India. So far in this daily photo journal we have brought you key insights from the people of the region, documenting what individuals would like to see in the new state’s land policy. Today we are taking a step back and taking a look at the big picture of major land problems and the estimated number of affected poor people.


The total rural population of Telangana is 26 Million.

  • At least one million people do not have a secure title (patta) for the land they have purchased through unregistered sale transactions.
  • At least 40 percent of land owners still have insecure land rights.
  • At least 50 percent of total rural poor are completely landless.
  • About 50 percent of land in tribal areas is occupied and controlled by the non-tribal in spite of protective laws.
  • About 500,000 hectares of land is being taken back by the forest department without due process. Poor people who are cultivating these lands are under constant threat of eviction.
  • About a million land problems were filed in various revenue offices in the last two years and have not been resolved. Yet thousands more do not even know that they have a land problem because they lack basic knowledge about the laws.
  • There are ten to 20 families in each village who do not even have a small piece of land to have their own house.
  • Almost every parcel of land has a land survey issue.  The last survey was conducted 70 years ago.


During the Land Caravan, we have identified some progress and promising solutions:

  • Land records are written on the wall in the village so all know who is cultivating which land.
  • Land Rights Legal Aid Centers have been established at the District level.
  • Paralegals and Community Surveyors have been helping the poor identify and resolve land issues.
  • Village courts are being organized every year to settle land problems at people’s doorsteps.
  • Surveying land using GPS is a low-cost solution and has been piloted in some areas.
  • Giving unused land acquired by the government to the poor provides economic benefits for the poor and the land owner.
  • Leasing out the land controlled by Temples to the poor can also improve their economic development


February 15, 2014 — DAY 10: Bottlenecks

Over the last 10 days, Landesa’s “Land Caravan” has travelled more than 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) through the proposed new Indian state of Telangana. We have met more than 3,000 farmers, landless poor, women, youth, revenue officials and others.

10 a

During these travels and conversations, we’ve identified a few bottlenecks in the land administration and governance system that if addressed could help tens of thousands of families climb out of extreme poverty.


Here are some of the “bottlenecks” identified during our time in the field:

  • Lack of knowledge of laws and procedure by many revenue staff
  • Frequent transfer of revenue officers
  • Not enough revenue staff
  • No proper land disputes settlement mechanisms
  • Lack of legal assistance to the poor
  • Non-updating of land records
  • Lack of awareness about land laws and records among people
  • Lack of access to land records


We will be continuing our “Land Caravan” for another two days. The information we collect, in our conversations with farmers, local officials, and the landless poor will help us better understand the land issues here and inform the proposed new state’s land laws and policies.

Want to help Landesa make a real difference in regions like Telengana? Support our Windows of Opportunity Fund, which allows us to respond quickly to opportunities to transform land rights for the rural poor:

Donate button


February 14, 2014 — DAY 9: Life After the Land Title

Today, as Landesa staff continued their “land caravan” through the areas of Andhra Pradesh that may become part of India’s proposed new state Telangana, we saw examples of how small parcels of land can help lift families out of poverty.

91 Gaddam Swarupa

Several families in Pedamupparam village of Warangal district leased an acre of land belonging to a temple trust in the village. All these families, once landless poor, are now climbing out of extreme poverty.

Here is what those families shared with Landesa’s Land Caravan :

92 Godisala Lakshmi

Godisala Lakshmi

“I am able to save some money now. I feel more secure.”
– Godisala Lakshmi

93 Meditapalli Karuna

Midatapalli Karuna

“Because of this land, I am able to send my children to school.”
– Midatapalli Karuna

94 Dharmarapu Pulamma

Dharmarapu Pulamma

“My husband used to migrate to faraway places in search of work before we got this land. Now, he works along with me in this land. Land has given strength to my family.”
– Dharmarapu Pulamma


February 13, 2014 — DAY 8: Publicly Posted ‘Pahani’

Today, Landesa staff continued their “land caravan” through the areas of Andhra Pradesh that may become part of India’s proposed new state Telangana, visiting a few villages that are benefiting from a simple and cost-effective method of providing farmers access to land records.

Pahani on Wall in Yellapur Village in Warangal District

The Revenue Administration in Warangal district now posts the ‘Pahani’ (Village land record) on the wall in 139 villages across the district. This posting allows farmers, many for the first time, to inspect the legal records of the land they farm to find and address discrepancies.

Here’s what villagers told us:

Mr.Katla Rajaiah, Yellapur -village

Katla Rajaiah

Katla Rajaiah of the Yellapur Village said:

“I purchased one acre of land and obtained patta (title) for it. I am cultivating the land since I bought it. However, I came to know through the “wall writing” that my name is not entered in pahani.  I submitted an application to Tahasildar and got it rectified.”

Erra Manemma, SHG member

Erra Manemma

Erra Manemma, a SHG Member in Yellapur village said:

“All the farmers could verify their land details through this wall writing of pahani. More than 30 percent of farmers had said land details were incorrect and subsequently got it rectified. Pahani should be written on the wall in every village.”

Our “Land Caravan” will continue through Monday. The information we collect, in our conversations with farmers, local officials, and the landless poor will help us better understand the land issues here and inform the proposed new state’s land laws and policies.


February 12, 2014 — DAY 7: The Bhoodan Movement

Today Landesa staff continued their “land caravan” through the areas of Andhra Pradesh that may become part of India’s proposed new state Telangana, stopping at a village of enormous historical importance — Bhoodhan Pochampally village in the Nalgonda district.

In 1951 Vinoba Bhave, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, visited this village in his search for solutions to end rural poverty. Bhave held a village meeting with all of the area’s scheduled castes, who are the lowest ranking castes and generally the poorest of the poor, under this tree.

first donation started under this tree

During this meeting, residents told Vinoba Bhave that at the source of their troubles was a single factor: their landlessness. If they had land, they told Bhave, they could provide for themselves and their families.

Upon hearing this, Vinoba Bhave vowed to travel the countryside calling on large landowners to donate a portion of their land to the poor. The first to do so was Vedira Ramchandra Reddy, who donated hundreds of acres. And so the “Bhoodan Movement” was born, with thousands of landless families across the country benefiting.

Here is a photo of Vedira Ramchandra Reddy’s son Dr. Vedire Prabod Chandra Reddy, who told us, “They said they needed something that would provide a permanent solution to their poverty, something which provides permanent livelihood. Then, my father stood up and announced that he is going to donate his share of land.”

Dr. Vedire Prabod Chanra reddy the son of first land donor

Dr. Vedire Prabod Chandra Reddy

Many of the families who received land have since passed it on to their children. We met with some of the original beneficiaries and their children who told us:

recipient of first Land donation Vanam Lachumaiah

Sollu Narsaiah

“My family got five acres of land as Bhoodhan from Bhai Saheb (Vedire Ramchandra Reddy). Our life changed since then. Earlier, there was no security to our life as we don’t even have a piece of land of our own. Now we are cultivating and our life is secured.”
– Sollu Narsaiah

recipient of first Land donation Sollu Lingaiah

Sollu Lingaiah

“Bhai Saheb (Vedire Ramchandra Reddy) gave 6 acres of land to our family. I have inherited 1.5 acres of land. He is God for all the Harijans (untouchables) of our village.”
– Sollu Lingaiah

recipient of first Land donation Sollu Narsaiah

Vanam Lachumaiah

“I was a landless agriculture laborer. I have been able to educate my 3 children and now they are working. I could do this only because Bahi sahib gave me four acres of land.”
– Vanam Lachumaiah

Despite the benefits of the Boodhan Movement, India still has an estimated 20 million rural families who are completely landless.

Want to help Landesa make a real difference in regions like Telengana? Support our Windows of Opportunity Fund, which allows us to respond quickly to opportunities to transform land rights for the rural poor:

Donate button


February 11, 2014 — DAY 6: Tribal Rights & Forest Land 

“Water, Forest, Land,” this was the battle cry of Komaram Bheem, a tribal leader who fought for land rights in rural Andra Pradesh, India 100 years ago.


His slogan, which called for providing forest-dwelling tribal communities with rights over all the resources of the forest (including water, forest, and land), remains relevant today.

As we continued our “Land Caravan” for a sixth day, travelling through areas of Andhra Pradesh that may become part of India’s proposed new state Telangana, collecting information to help inform the proposed new state’s land laws and policies, we spoke with many tribal communities who are still hoping for the rights Bheem championed.


Tribal communities we spoke with today explained:

  • By and large, tribal communities still do not have titles to the forest land they have been cultivating
  • The few titles they do have are often incomplete
  • Boundary disputes between two government departments (the Forest and Revenue Departments) are causing untold misery and violating tribals’ rights
  • The Forest Department is designating much of the land tribals are cultivating as “forest land” without due process
  • Outsiders continue to take land that belongs to tribal communities
  • Even when a court rules in tribals’ favor in such a conflict, the judgment is often not enforced and the land is often not returned.
  • Many tribal people are absolutely landless


Indeed, a 2006 report by Andhra Pradesh’s Land Committee made special mention of these communities, saying: “in matters of land, the scheduled tribes are a specifically vulnerable group… Despite the progressive constitutional safeguards in force, great injustice has been done to the Tribals.”

The Report went on to say that, “India loses 1.3 per cent economic growth annually as a result of disputed land titles, which inhibit supply of capital and credit for agriculture.”

February 10, 2014 – DAY 5: Government Officials’ View

Today, as we continued our “Land Caravan” in the proposed new state of Telangana, the President of India approved the Bill for Separating Telangana from the State of Andhra Pradesh.  This moves the area closer to statehood. The president’s approval also increases the urgency for the information we are gathering from the field to help inform the new state’s land policies and laws.

Day 5 Map2

Today we talked with people who are working within the system – government officials responsible for land records and titling.  They identified many problems with the system and the services they provide.  They identified the following issues to resolve:

  • Land records are on paper and they are old and falling apart
  • Records are often inaccurate and out of date.
  • Land records are not easily accessible  to the people
  • Fees for obtaining land records are too costly for the poor
  • Land officers do not receive enough training, despite the importance of their job

Day 5 0

The government officials also had some concrete suggestions for how to resolve these issues:

  • “Resurveying the land is the permanent cure for all the land problems”
  • “New records should be prepared”
  • “Land records should be available to the entire community”
  • “Reduce the fees for securing land record copies”
  • “There should be one revenue staff in each village dedicated to writing and maintaining village land records”

Day 5 officers

It is worth noting that the government officials’ comments did not vary greatly from the community. What they also shared is that they are often overworked with many other government responsibilities to perform and not enough support and staff to get it all done.

Want to help Landesa make a real difference in regions like Telengana? Support our Windows of Opportunity Fund, which allows us to respond quickly to opportunities to transform land rights for the rural poor:

Donate button


February 9, 2014 — DAY 4: Insights from Women

On our fourth day travelling through the proposed new state of Telangana in our “Land Caravan” we continue to speak with farmers, local officials, the land landless poor to help us better understand the land issues here and inform the new state’s land laws and policies.

Day 4 A

Throughout our travels, we are hearing from many rural women who, no matter their caste, income level, or district express many of the same concerns.

Day 4 Bb

They often don’t know their rights, don’t feel welcome in government offices, and don’t know how to address their land-related problems.

Day 4 Dd

The women we’ve spoken to, from farmers to farm laborers, identified the most serious challenges as:
• The lack of accurate land records within government offices
• The government’s inability to regularize unofficial sales
• Family landlessness
• Lack of government officers in villages
• Taking of lands by other groups even when law protects against this

Day 3 Cc

The women we’ve interviewed also had concrete suggestions for how to resolve these issues:
• “Give land to the landless families so we can farm”
• “Make a TV soap opera that includes messages about how to resolve land issues”
• “Include land rights education in the school curriculum”
• “Train the government officers so they can do their job and make them stay in the villages”

We thank the hundreds of people across the countryside who have taken the time to speak with us. Tomorrow, on day five, we will feature what government officers say about land issues.

February 8, 2014 — DAY 3: Ideas from Tenant Farmers

Three days into Landesa’s Land Caravan across the proposed new state of Telangana and Landesa’s land tenure experts have met more than 1,000 people. We’re organizing meetings in every district of the Telangana region to better understand the main land issues and help inform the proposed state’s new land laws and policy’s.

Day 3 A

Today we heard from tenant farmers and government officials that the lack of clarity around land ownership often creates conflicts that lead to civil court cases, clogging local courts.

Day 3 B

We also heard from tenant farmers. Land leasing is illegal, but openly practiced. This situation leaves tenant farmers in an extremely insecure position.

Day 3 real C

Farmers asked to create a booklet with all the basic information about land laws and the documents needed for secure land. One farmer’s comment summarizes the sentiment we heard today: “If there is a new state, let’s start over and create a new system for providing secure titles to all.”

Day 3 C

Want to help Landesa make a real difference in regions like Telengana? Support our Windows of Opportunity Fund, which allows us to respond quickly to opportunities to transform land rights for the rural poor:

Donate button

February 7, 2014 — DAY 2: Range of Land Relationships

Landesa’s land caravan continued its journey across Nalgonda and Khamman districts today speaking with more than 600 farmers about how the new Indian state of Telangana might create land policies to help the poor better their lives.

farmers in fields day 2

We spoke with agricultural laborers, government officials, farmers, agricultural extension workers, and landless women.  Although they have very different relationships to the land, they  are unified in their frustration with current laws and policies.

group of men farmers day 2

Exasperated farmers told us about conflicts between two government departments, the Forestry Department and the Revenue Department, each with its different –and sometimes conflicting — rules and policies that farmers must follow.

women farmers speaking day 2

A landless woman named Nirmala, who stopped us to discuss the rights of poor tribals and scheduled caste communities in the area, is hopeful that the new state will enact new policies and laws that are more responsive to the needs of the poor. “I will have my own land” she said, referring to the new state, not to any expectation that she will receive land.

farmers in fields looking on day 2

The more dependent people are to the land and the closer they are to the land, the more passionate they are about the land. Here are some recommendations from the farmers, local officials, laborers, and landless families with whom our land caravan spoke:

“Land revenue records should be available in the villages”

 “Revenue authorities should speedily dispose/resolve all land cases”

“Government records should be open and available in the village like writing basic documents on the wall where everyone can see”

“Land development is needed… resources are needed for development, water, credit, technology”

elderly farmers day 2

February 6, 2014 — DAY 1: The Land Caravan

The Government of India is proposing creating a new state called Telangana. Landesa has launched a “land caravan” with our land tenure experts travelling the countryside this week to gather information from farmers, the landless poor, and local government officials to help guide the state’s new land laws and policy. Land caravan team members report:

On the first day of Landesa’s land caravan interviews through the villages we spoke with more than two hundred people.  Again and again we heard that lack of secure titles affect almost every village.  Most people indicated that incorrect government land records, lack of personal titles, and general lack of knowledge by farmers and government officials continue to create major problems with regards to access to credit and other government services.  Everywhere we stopped people had passionate opinions about the problems and possible solutions:

Landesa with farmers in India

“Train the government officials to know

“Have the government correct our records” the land procedures”

“Give us land so we can farm”

“We need to know more about our rights”

“Re-survey the land”

“Update the land records”

Even government officials recognized that the current system is inaccurate because there has been no land survey since the 1930’s.

Want to help Landesa make a real difference in regions like Telengana? Support our Windows of Opportunity Fund, which allows us to respond quickly to opportunities to transform land rights for the rural poor:

Donate button








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