Mumbai August 20, Labourer tonsured for taking day off - by Yogesh Pawar

Updated Report for October 2004- Livelihood security for Katkari community in Raigad and Thane District

June 20 2004:Funding received from from RIC and Onaway Trust.

  A meeting of network partners was organised in April 2004 to finalise details of activities to be implemented over a short-term as well as a long-term period. It was decided to work in the following Talukas: Karjat, Khalapur, Sudhagad-Pali, Roha, Murbad and Shahpur

The first step was to do a systematic survey of all Katkari hamlets in the six Talukas. A survey format was collectively developed and survey work was initiated.

The other step was to begin work on organising Katkaris. Informal visits, discussions, meetings, cultural events, etc. are being organised by partners in hamlets. In Sudhagad-Pali, the series of meetings gradually led to a big meeting of 50 Katkari hamlets. The Katkari people at this meeting found this to be a stimulating event. They felt that they could use to occasion to revive their traditional "Nyaya Nivada Manch" (dispute redressal forum) which had stopped functioning since the past 10-15 years. As a result, even minor disputes amongst Katkaris were being settled in Police Stations, who were using the opportunity to exploit all concerned. It was decided to organise a meeting of all the 80-85 Katkari hamlets in Sudhagad-Pali Taluka to finalise the Nyaya Nivada Manch. The Katkari elders requested the NGO partner to suggest a structure and mechanism for the forum to operate in a just and equitable manner. The modalities are being worked out.

Land issues of Katkaris are being given a priority in all the Talukas. ADS took it up as a challenge and began follow up with government officials. Meetings were also organised in Katkari hamlets and near brick units to discuss land issues. The issue of Ceiling Land emerged as a priority given the instances of encroachment by outsiders. ADS compiled details of the Ceiling Land cases affecting Katkaris in Karjat Taluka and began approaching government officials at various levels.

6 Volunteers were selected by ADS for a one-year training on land issues. They were placed in different villages. Regular inputs are being given to the volunteers.

The ADS efforts yielded dividends much sooner than expected. The government passed orders to sort out the six Ceiling Land cases in Katkari hamlets of Karjat Taluka. The Land Survey Department was immediately ordered to begin survey work in all the six hamlets. This is a major task and may take 1-2 years. The Land Survey Department began work but came up with a number of excuses to delay and postpone the surveys. One of the main reasons was a shortage of manpower. The ADS team of 8 members stepped in and volunteered to assist the Survey team in putting things together at all the sites. The concerned Katkari families were traced at various brick units and asked to return to their villages immediately. Meetings were organised in the villages. The survey work began in the first village. It took nearly one month. The second survey was initiated and completed just at the onset of monsoon. These two were relatively small and easier plots of land in terms of lack of vegetation. So the survey work was much simpler. A preliminary assessment was done on one of the large plots. There were a number of difficulties. The monsoon began and it was hence decided to postpone the survey work till November.

In any case, Katkari families in two villages were able to get legal ownership of their land after a long, long period of over 30 years. Katkari families in other villages are sure that their Ceiling Land cases will be sorted out in a year or two. A major outcome of this success is the sudden optimism amongst Katkaris in the entire region. They now feel that some solution can be found for their problems and their sufferings.

During the past two months the entire ADS team was busy with the surveys of Ceiling Lands in different villages. The other NGO partners are also busy with a number of assignments. Details will be known once we have the next reporting meeting during July-August.