State Editions

Land ownership: Fair sex far discriminated in Odisha

| | BHUBANESWAR | in Bhubaneswar

Despite numerous efforts towards protecting the rights of women through pioneering State policy and programmes, women continue to be discriminated agaisnt with regard to access and control over land in Odisha.

A recent World Bank study on Gender and Land Governance in Odisha reveals that a meagre 3.3 per cent of land is owned by women, which is much below the national average of 13 per cent.

Inaugurating a State level technical validation workshop on the study on August 4 last, Chief Secretary GC Pati assured that the Government of Odisha will seriously act upon the recommendations by the study to reduce the skewed distribution of land ownership. Besides, he said that no sustainable inclusive development can be achieved without addressing the land ownership rights of women who constitute 50 per cent of the State’s population.

The study conducted by NRMC India for the World Bank aimed at examining women’s ownership over land and participation in land governance in line with FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines (VGGT). An in-depth analysis of legal and institutional framework besides field situation of women’s land rights in six districts of the State confirmed the data which was cross-examined with census data to arrive at the final findings. While the State claims that 6.75 lakh homestead pattas have been distributed through various land programmes such as the Vasundhara and Gramakantha Paramboke and an additional record in forest rights recognition under FRA to 3.4 lakh families, mostly joint titles, the study found that average allotment has been as less as 2 decimals per family. Interestingly, the women wherever got single title (about 12 per cent) on an average get less than 2 decimals of land. Single women, constituting mostly divorcee, widowed and unmarried above 30 years of age, could not possess the allotted land due to distance of land from present location, delay in demarcation, absence of housing, sanitation support and socio-cultural practice.

The study found some initiatives by the State supported by NGOs such as the single women’s land rights through Women Support Centre programme implemented in four districts - Ganjam, Mayurbhanj, Koraput and Kalahandi with support from Landesa; for recognising rights of women under FRA in Kandhamal by Vasundhara and strengthening women federations for securing women’s land rights in Rayagada by PRADAN.

As per Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), amongst 10.6 lakh woman-headed households, 40 per cent are landless who derive major income from manual labour. “State’s recent decision to conduct a fresh survey to identify homesteadless based on revised income ceiling of Rs 40,000 may not yield desired result if it does not relook at the unrealistic deadline, limited staff capacity of Revenue Department and consider concerted effort by the community, Panchayatiraj institutions and the civil society,” affirmed lead researcher Pranab Ranjan Choudhury of NRMC.

The State also needs to establish a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure possession of land by single women, suggested expert advisor Dr T Haque, Chairman, CSD, New Delhi. He also asserted on the indispensable role of NIC and digitisation of land record database Bhulekh by adding ‘gender’ as an additional column to feed data.

Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 that recognises equal rights of daughters in parents’ property has remained a non-starter due to lack of awareness among women, taboo and deep-seated patriarchy. Information Commissioner Shashiprava Bindhani stressed on the need for awreness generation and  capacity building of the field staff of the Revenue Department. World Bank representative Satya Mishra underlined the importance of gender equitable land governance in global context and reiterated the need for wider dissemination of the State’s best practices.



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