Land distribution programme: a bane for women peasants

Post Source: Dawn – By Mohammad Hussain Khan

 

HYDERABAD: The four acre piece of land allotted to Ms Aasi Mallah, a landless peasant of the Jati area in Thatta, by the Sindh government under land for landless program has become a bane rather than a boon for her. She is among a large number of beneficiaries of the program who find it increasingly hard to get possession of their land, which in most cases is occupied by land-grabbers.

Ms Shahnaz of Mirpur Sakro in Thatta said that some men reportedly working for a provincial minister of upper Sindh did not allow her to get her land measuring six and a half acres demarcated. She was allotted the land a year ago.

Mirpur Sakro’s Ms Rukhsana is running from pillar to post to get the eight acres and six ghuntas she had been allotted demarcated and de-possessed from land-grabbers.

Ms Aasi said that one Gul Mohammad Mallah had occupied her land. He subjected her and her spouse to torture when they tried to take over their property. “Gul threw my infant and mauled my husband,” Aasi told this correspondent here on Wednesday after attending a workshop organised by the Participatory Development Initiatives (PDI) of Oxfam to highlight plight of peasant women.

“Gul expelled me and my husband from our area. We live somewhere else now because he has threatened us with dire consequences,” she said.

List of such cases is becoming long by each day, casting a shadow over effectiveness of the entire programme.

A study carried out by Sikandar Brohi of the PDI has examined cases of land allotment in Dadu, Thatta, Badin, Shaheed Benazirabad and Qambar-Shahdadkot districts.

The program has been launched in 17 out of 23 districts of the province in its first phase and the second phase is scheduled to begin in a fortnight while issues like taking back land’s possession from influential people, cumbersome process of litigation in offices of revenue department and obtaining land documents remain unsolved.

Complaints about such litigation abound in view of multiple claims over land and in absence of guidance from the officers concerned.

These women spoke about their ordeal in the presence of Faisal Uqaili, Sindh government’s coordinator for land distribution programme.

In some cases pieces of land in precincts of graveyards or land devoured by seawater have been allotted to the poor peasant women. Levelling of uneven land is another major obstacle besides big landholders’ blockade of irrigation water to the allottees.

“At the very outset of the programme, Sindh government had directed revenue officials to allot land which was free of encumbrances. We know of cases in which land even on sand dunes have been allotted and in five cases land devoured by seawater has been allotted. But hopefully these issues will be addressed in the second phase,” Mr Uqaili said.

He said that around 4,200 people had been allotted 43,000 acres so far.

The PDI’s study noticed that in majority of cases either influential people themselves or their relatives have got the land meant for poor peasant women.

Ghulam Zohran, a widow who lives in Larkana, testified to the fact that she personally knew women who were twice allotted land.

Identification of land remains an enigma. As a rule, revenue officials do not consult local community or civil society organisations and hold katchehries at the landlords’ autaqs instead of public places to make announcements of allotment.

A woman of Nindo Shahar in Badin district said that she had to get a loan from an NGO which was working with Sindh government to get her land levelled.

According to Sikandar Brohi the process of identification and allotment of land was seriously flawed. “Given pathetic working of revenue department women are unable to defend claims filed against them and usually such cases are decided against them. 87 appeals have been filed in Thatta alone,” he said.

He accused authorities of not consulting local community and civil society organisations and failing to follow Sindh government’s steering committee’s guidelines, which called for availability of cultivable, irrigated, litigation-free land.

“Revenue officers identified lands in pieces. For instance if two acres are located in one union council, the second block is found in another area to which women avoid travelling. “Secondly, the allotment is announced through a list and forms VII-A which are essential in terms of revenue record are not given to women in many cases,” he said.

Reports indicate that women have become dependent on loans provided by some NGOs for fertiliser and other purposes.

The PDI director said that for inputs women are approaching Rural Support Programme Networks whose role remains questionable.

Contrary to Sindh chief minister’s statement about availability of 212,864 acres, revenue department had made 85,199 acres available, said the PDI study.

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