Equal access to common resources still a far cry

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Equal access to common resources still a far cry

Friday, 27 May 2022 | MANAS JENA

Our villages must be rebuilt as a place of dignified living because along with material development, dignity of human being is equally important. This can be possible by making our common resources accessible to the deprived sections. While rebuilding our villages, the inclusion of the marginalised groups in use of common property resources (CPR) and their access to basic amenities must be addressed by the State Government in the programme of rural development. The value of social democracy and human dignity must prevail in building an inclusive society as visualised in our Constitution. The CPR, such as grazing land for cattle population, village forest, temple land, cremation ground, playground, water bodies and other common space available in the village must be free for the use of all villagers without discrimination. However, experience shows still there are villages where the marginalised sections are being prevented by the dominant caste people from using common resources. This leads to social conflict and dispute among different social groups and creates law and order situation which affects the normal peace and development of the village.

The law says that everyone has equal right over the CPR and she/he is entitled to use that without fear and discrimination. The PCR Act 1955 and the SCs and STs (POA) Amendment Act 2015 have such provisions, but the provisions are not being enforced for the protection of the marginalised in the rural villages. The Government and political parties must address the issues in the villages.

A survey of 200 hamlets in eight blocks of Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Cuttack, Khurdha and Puri districts by a social organisation shows that still the marginalised sections have very little access to the use of CPR. It is violation of user rights over CPR. Another problem with CPR is that in many villages, the CPR is in possession of ex- Zamindars or Gountias or land owning families since generations. It is found that customarily, the poor people’s hamlets are located at the end part of the village or in segregated locations and not connected to the main road of the village.

Out of 200 hamlets, predominantly inhabited by poor communities, 30 per cent of the hamlets have no all-weather roads. They face immense problem in every day’s life to reach the main road, especially in rainy season. There are hamlets in Khurdha and Puri districts such as Chhatahara and Baniasahi in Nimapada block, Arapada in Balipatana block, where the people use a farm land divider as a passage of walking path from their hamlet to the main road. The people of many hamlets in Jaipur districts have no cremation ground to cremate bodies. They have to carry the bodies to the nearest railway track side, or road side and forest area for cremation. It is unfortunate that people are deprived of dignity even after death. Out of 200 hamlets surveyed 60 per cent of the hamlets have no cremation ground; 40 per cent hamlets have no sources of drinking water near the habitation and the dwellers depend on water sources in upper caste habitation and have to face social humiliation with very restricted access to such water sources. Barring a few, almost all the inhabitants face discrimination in use of water sources in the villages such as village pond and tube well. The water sources closer to village temple or inside the temple almost have restricted access for the socially excluded groups. The village ponds have caste wise separate use patches and bathing ghats. The grazing land, playground and village forest are under the control of the dominant people of the village. The survey found children are denied free access to play outdoor games.

The inhabitants face social segregation while organising their socio-cultural functions due to lack of common space or community halls in their hamlets. It is found that the dominant castes have monopolised their authority over the CPR. The survey found that whenever any collective decision happens on CPR, the marginalised sections are not usually consulted or asked for opinions. This has created a sense of alienation among the marginalised sections in matters of village CPR, its use and conservation and protection. The survey report concluded that in our villages, caste based social structure has not changed much to accommodate the excluded groups to live in a dignified manner in recognising their basic human rights over CPR and also in getting access to basic amenities under public schemes.
Similar to the CPR issues, the basic amenities such as drinking water, electricity, linking road, housing and sanitation schemes being implemented out of Government fund in the villages are not inclusive of the poor and it is observed that apart from corruption and political lobby for beneficiary selection, the marginalised sections have to fight a battle against local Government officials and dominant caste leaders controlling PRIs, to access such schemes. There are also legal and technical problems in getting such schemes implemented such as availability of land. A number of households interested to construct toilets have no private land near their habitation. There are high and low density hamlets.

In the high density hamlets, the inhabitants have to undergo all troubles. They are not only unhygienic but degrading to live. The PMAY as per guideline includes toilet, bathroom, soak pit, compost pit, smoke less Chula, bio gas, LPG connection, besides the house. But many beneficiaries are unable to avail those amenities due to land crunch. Physical access to habitations is very important in day- to- day life but many hamlets of poor in the end part of the village remain in segregation without an all-weather linking road. It is the fault of the Revenue Department which is not doing timely survey and settlement of the village land to make fair distribution of land to all sections as per law.



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