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Apr 23 2012

Odisha’s 500,000 tribal families set to receive land titles in next five years!

In a major breakthrough promising land titles to about 500,000 tribal families in Odisha, the state government has announced a massive extension of its flagship homestead scheme based on Community Resource Persons (CRPs) – a model developed by Rural Development Institute (RDI).

The announcement made on April 11, 2012, comes in the backdrop of a gritty advocacy campaign. It celebrates a unique experiment that relies on trained youth drawn from villages to bridge the gap between state schemes for landless and tribal communities without homestead land titles.

The CRP model creates a partnership between the state and the non-state actors for services considered so far as the exclusive domain of the government is being experimented in India for the first time for land rights issues.

Lack of access and control over land pushes poor families, especially women, deep into a poverty trap with no way out of it as they do not own any assets. Getting one’s own land to live and grow food on is a life changing experience that every landless family in India dreams about.

The model has been a success as it evolved from everyday realties which block access to the scheme. Since 2011, 540 CRPs – popularly known as Bhoomi Sanjojaks – are being used by Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) for its 1,042 project villages in seven districts of Odisha.

28,000 landless families have been listed as potential beneficiaries in just over a year by using the Bhoomi Sanjojaks. Identification is the first step towards getting land titles. Since the bottlenecks have been cleared in the villages where the OTELP project is under implementation, hundreds of tribal families have now been getting titles.

Events like these, marking distribution of land titles, will become more and more common with the latest annoucement

An openness to admit that the local administration needed more support and better systems to implement the land allocation scheme marked a major shift in state government’s approach. This was reciprocated to by Landesa through a research study in 2009 to identify the gaps in the Vasundhra scheme for homesteadless. Trust and in-depth understanding of policy and implementation processes are some of the key reasons for this advocacy win.

Armed with a data showing that all was not well with the implementation of the scheme, a set of pilot projects were developed with a squad of men and women who were trained in identifying beneficiaries and verifying it with various lists with the state officials.

An understaffed local administration and a community bereft of knowledge about the land title allocation processes came together through a passionate and dedicated bunch that often travels several miles in a day using whatever means of transportation that is available to reach families in somewhat inaccessible villages.

Odisha is one of the poorest states in India. According to the Planning Commission, 46.9 percent of its population lives Below Poverty Line. As per the National Family Health Survey in 2005-06, 44 percent of children below three years of age were underweight in the state.

Indigenous communities constitute about 22 percent of the state’s population which is nearly three times the national average. This underlines the importance of secure homestead land for some of the poorest communities in the state.

Following the latest announcement, 18,000 villages would be covered under three simultaneous campaigns (2012-2016) within the next five years to coincide with India’s 12th Five Year Plan.

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