KATKARIS: A PRIMITIVE FOREST TRIBE FROM MAHARASHTRA
A REPORT BY
ACADEMY OF DEVELOPMENT SCIENCE
KASHELE POST, KARJAT TALUKA, RAIGAD DISTRICT
MAHARASHTRA 410 201
RAINFOREST INFORMATION CENTRE
APRIL 2003 TO FEBRUARY 2004
Katkari, Kathkari or Kathodi is one of the three 'Primitive Tribal Groups'
or PTG in Maharashtra along with Madhia Gond and Kolam. As a community they
are socially and economically on the lowest rungs of the development ladder.
Most of the families are caught in a vicious circle of poverty, indebtedness
and bonded labour. All able-bodied men, women and children work as bonded labour
on brick kilns in far away places.
Katkaris are cheated, exploited and made to work under sub-human conditions
on the brick kilns. To make matters worse, the entire community is treated as
a criminal tribe and often harassed by the police for no rhyme or reason.
Over 90% of the Katkari families are landless and are totally dependent on
wage labour for their livelihood. Government welfare programmes fail to reach
the Katkaris. The exploitation by brick contractors, harassment by police and
absolute negligence by government have left hardly any space or scope for the
Katkaris to survive and prosper in an unequal world. The community today lives
in abject poverty and desolation.
Academy of Development Science (ADS) has been working with the Katkari community
over the past two years. Given below is a report of activities during April
2003 to February 2004.
ADS APPROACH TO WORK WITH KATKARIS
ADS realises the complexities involved in dealing with Katkaris. ADS follows
an informal but persistent approach in its work with Katkaris. ADS staff visit
hamlets, stay and eat with Katkaris and participate in their festivals from
time to time. Visits are organised to brick units to express solidarity and
to prevent exploitation. Informal discussion with families and groups of Katkaris
takes place during visits to their hamlets. Land issues are discussed, verified
from the revenue department and built into cases for follow up with the government.
Efforts are continually made to convince Katkaris to look on land as a means
of livelihood instead of being helplessly caught in the vortex of bonded labour.
Katkari families are assisted to obtain basic documents and certificates like
BPL listing, identity cards, ration cards, caste certificates, etc. and to access
various government schemes for food security.
ACTIVITIES FROM APRIL 2003 TO FEBRUARY 2004
A survey of Katkari hamlets
A preliminary survey was conducted in 100 hamlets in Karjat Taluka on various
socio-economic parameters to gain a better understanding of problems being faced
by the Katkari community. The data from the survey was compiled and analysed.
Findings of the survey are given in Annexure I.
It can be seen from the survey findings that Katkaris are perhaps one of the
most marginalised tribal communities in Maharashtra. There is a very high percentage
of landless people who also happen to be bonded labourers. Most of the members
are caught up in a vicious circle of poverty and debt. The state has failed
in setting up effective mechanisms to deliver the Katkaris from the "slippery
slope" syndrome. With globalisation making further inroads into tribal
regions, the Katkaris appear doomed to a never ending period of misery and slavery.
ADS has initiated work with the Katkari community over the past two years.
Efforts are being made to highlight the plight of Katkaris and seek remedial
measures on a priority basis. The outcomes over the past year give some hope
for improvements in the lives of Katkaris.
Surveys and meetings were organised in 68 Katkari hamlets to determine the
status of land ownership of families in the villages and to identify land issues
which need to be addressed. Documents of each family were examined. A record
was generated on land issues facing Katkari families. Main issues identified
were ceiling land, Dalli land, unregistered tenants, land encroachment, forest
encroachment, etc. Work was initiated by ADS to address some of the cases, as
discussed below. Details about various land issues are given in Annexure II.
Ceiling land in Pulachiwadi - a success story: There are 65 Katkari families
in Pulachiwadi. Most of them work as labourers either on farm houses owned by
rich people from Bombay or on brick kilns. Government had distributed 27 acres
of land to 9 landless Katkari families of the village in 1976 under the land
ceiling act. The distribution was done only on paper. However, the actual location
of plots was not shown and neither was the demarcation done. As a result people
never had access to the land which was allotted to them by the Government. The
land was lying fallow and unclaimed.
An interesting thing about the allotment of land to the nine families is the
fact that these nine beneficiaries were chosen on the basis of the willingness
of the married male members of each family to undergo family planning operation
(vasectomy) in 1976. More families would have been able to get land had the
male members opted for the family planning operation !!!
The 27 acres of land is located on the banks of a perennial river (Pej) and
a number of people from Mumbai have purchased land in this region to set up
farm houses. It so happened that some people from Mumbai had encroached on the
ceiling land of Katkaris. An application was submitted to the District Collector
explaining the fact that the Katkari families did not have legal possession
of the land since it has not been handed over to them. The illegal encroachments
by outsiders were also mentioned and it was pointed out that over 5,000 truck
loads of soil was taken out of this land by private contractors illegally without
paying any royalty to the government. Four reminders were sent to the Collector
but there was no action.
The case was then presented to the Collector on a Democracy Day (Lokshahi Deen)
and the Government was asked to carry out a survey of the land and hand over
individual plots to the nine families. The Collector then gave an order to the
Tehsildar, Karjat Taluka to immediately take action. The land survey department
initiated a survey of the land and legal land deeds were handed over to the
nine Katkari families in August 2003. ADS immediately submitted a proposal to
the Tribal Development Department to help the Katkaris in making the land suitable
for cultivation of crops. The proposal was approved and small plots of the upland
were converted to paddy fields and one water pond during January - February
The Government has also levied a fine of Rs.1,40,000 on the contractor for illegally
taking away soil from the lands of Katkari families. The success of this difficult
case has raised the expectations of a large number of landless Katkari families
who now see this as a silver lining in an otherwise bleak landscape. Many Katkaris
have approached ADS with a request to sort out their land issues.
Ceiling land cases in other Katkari hamlets: In 1976 the government distributed
338 acres of Ceiling Land to 146 Katkari families in Karjat Taluka. Some of
these ceiling lands were given to Katkari men who agreed to undergo the family
planning operation (vasectomy). The government has done proper surveys and given
legal possession of the land to only 6 families till date (+ the nine families
in Pulachiwadi who could get legal ownership in August 2003). 131 Katkari families
do not have legal possession of the land 28 years after distribution of the
ceiling land. Effectively, these families are landowners on paper but they do
not have possession and cannot cultivate the land due to government apathy.
ADS compiled detailed information of all the ceiling land cases in Karjat Taluka
and began submitting the document to government officials at various levels.
ADS also posed a question in the legislative assembly to find out why action
was not being taken to give legal possession of the ceiling lands to Katkari
families. The concerned Minister asked the District level administration to
immediately find out reasons for the non-distribution of the ceiling land and
take appropriate action. ADS then began following up with the Collector and
Tehsildar to sort out the ceiling land issue. ADS efforts have yielded results
and the Collector has now given orders for surveys of all the ceiling lands
given to Katkaris in Karjat Taluka. The concerned families will now be able
to get legal possession of the land that was given to them (on paper) after
28 long years. The irony of the situation is such that 90% of the Katkaris who
were given the land have already passed away. A lot of follow up is essential
now to register names of legal heirs of the deceased and to see that the government
orders are implemented in time.
Another problem regarding these lands is the encroachment by people from Mumbai
and other local non-tribals on the ceiling lands of 66 Katkaris from Mandavne,
Varne, Bhaliwadi, Pashane, Male and Tivre villages. A lot of effort would also
be needed to remove these encroachments with the help of government.
Dalli lands: There are 33 Dalli plots in the names of Katkari families
in Karjat Taluka. The total area of these plots is 1,100 acres and 22 gunthe;
with names of 567 Katkari families as Dalli plot holders. A study of the 33
Dalli plots revealed that of the 567 plot holders only 5% are cultivating some
parts of the Dalli land. 95% Katkaris are not cultivating the Dalli plots. Some
of the reasons given for not cultivating the land are:
1. Land is not on the names of Katkaris. The uncertainty about land ownership
is leading to lack of interest.
2. Land is not suitable for cultivation. It is not proving to be a stable source
3. Many Katkari families do not have implements, bullocks and resources to undertake
4. The yield from land cultivated without access to proper agricultural tools
is quite low and unable to feed families. So families are forced to migrate
to brick kilns for wage labour.
5. Migration to brick kilns is, in turn, making it difficult for the Katkari
families to spend much time on improving their land. It is thus a vicious circle
of having to migrate for survival and resultant lack of time to improve productivity
6. Katkaris are still not looking at land as a viable source of livelihoods
for their families. Government is not making much effort to help Katkari families
improve the productivity of their land and/ or to provide agricultural tools
to the families.
Katkari land rights Melava: A Melava (meeting) was organised to create
awareness about land rights. Over 350 Katkaris attended the meeting at their
own expense. Objectives of the meeting were to emphasise the land rights of
Katkaris and to mobilise the community to collectively lobby on land issues.
The present status of land issues affecting Katkaris was explained in detail,
with examples of individual villages. The ADS team then shared their experience
of the ceiling land encroachment case of 9 Katkari families in Pulachiwadi village.
ADS was successful in evicting the encroachment and in giving legal possession
of the ceiling land to Katkari families. Those present were impressed with the
result of the case and felt hopeful that their land cases would also be sorted
out through proper follow up and lobby work. The Melava served to enthuse Katkaris
and provide them with concrete positive examples.
ADS team also narrated their experiences of encouraging a group of Katkari
farmers in Jambhulwadi to grow some crops on Dalli land during the monsoon season.
Each of the participating families could earn between Rs.5,000 to Rs. 10,000
from the cultivation. Other Katkaris were asked to ponder over the possibilities
of earning livelihoods by growing crops on land instead of working as bonded
labour on brick kilns.
A resolution on the status of land issues affecting Katkaris was prepared and
submitted to the government.
An issue of 96-acres of prime property: ADS is assisting a defunct Katkari
co-operative society to retain ownership of 96-acres of prime land close to
a perennial river in Bhaliwadi village. The Registrar of Co-operatives had directed
the Government to transfer the land to the revenue department. ADS has organised
over 70 families in the four hamlets and helped them to re-register the society.
The group is thus in a position to stake their claim to collective ownership
of the 96-acre land.
The land ownership issue is being sorted out through discussion with the Tehsildar
and collector. A number of meetings and camps were organised in the four hamlets
to facilitate registration of the society. There is overt and covert pressure
from politicians, businessmen and estate agents to obtain this plot of land
given its proximity to the main road and a perennial river. ADS is assisting
the Katkaris to stake claim to a plot of land which can provide livelihood to
a large number of poor families.
Regularisation of Forest encroachment: ADS was nominated on 27 Gao Samitis
constituted by the Tehsildar to regularise forest encroachments. A survey was
conducted in the 27 villages to identify tribals who have encroached on forest
land. 16 families from 3 villages were found to grow crops on forest land. ADS
staff participated in Gao Samiti meetings to resolve the land issues of Katkari
Displacement: Construction of the Morbe dam in adjoining Khalapur Taluka
was initiated in 1985. Land was acquired from the tribal and non-tribal families
residing in nearby village and compensation was paid to the land owners. However,
85 tribal families were evicted from the land they were cultivating without
any compensation. This happened to be 105 acres of Dalli land. The tribal families
were not paid compensation on the grounds that the land did not belong to them
legally. The legal owner of the land was forest department. However, the government
order to hand over legal possession of Dalli land to tribal farmers was passed
in 1971. Hence the tribals did not get compensation simply because the government
did not bother to ensure implementation of its earlier order. The 1971 order
to give legal ownership of land to tribals pre-dates the 1985 decision to acquire
land for building the dam.
ADS has organised the 105 displaced tribal families and it is assisting them
to file a court case to claim compensation for the loss of the land they were
cultivating for a long time. Regular meetings are organised in the dam-affected
villages to mobilise people and to prepare a thorough case on behalf of the
tribals. The issue has also been discussed with a l lawyer who has agreed to
fight the case. Efforts are being made to mobilise partial monetary contribution
from tribal families to pay the fees of the lawyer.
Katkaris on brick kilns: Work was initiated with Katkari families in
30 villages to reduce their exploitation on the brick units. It was found that
325 families from the 30 villages were working as bonded labour on brick kilns.
This included 415 men, 384 women, 284 boys and 235 girls; a total of 1,318 Katkaris.
ADS began keeping records of each family in terms of the brick unit they work
with, advance taken, bricks made, wages earned, wages paid, etc. Efforts were
also made to create awareness amongst Katkaris about the dangers of taking advance
from the contractors.
Six Katkari families were badly beaten up by a contractor and his men at a
brick unit in Panvel on 21 February 2004 on the pretext that one of the Katkaris
sought a day's leave to visit his home. Following the violence against Katkaris,
some other Katkaris approached ADS seeking help for the unfortunate victims.
The ADS team rushed to the brick unit, and after a discussion with the Katkari
families, sought an explanation from the contractor. He was told that the affected
families were going to file a police case. The contractor realised the futility
of telling lies and suppressing the facts. He admitted his mistake and agreed
to co-operate. The Katkari families were asked about the course of action they
wished to follow. They decided that the contractor should bow down to all of
them, seek their pardon, organise their treatment in the hospital and ensure
payment of proper wages to all of them. The contractor willingly submitted to
the demands from Katkaris. He also agreed not to repeat this act in the future.
He realised that this kind of violence against Katkaris would not be tolerated
in the future.
Katkari families were also assisted in filing police cases against contractors
for unprovoked and unjustified violence.
The work with bonded labourers is part of a larger plan to reduce their exploitation
on brick units, convince them about the need to break the vicious circle; address
the felt needs of these families (land issues, imparting new vocational skills,
etc.) and gradually wean them away from wage labour by providing alternative
land-based livelihoods. This work needs to be seen as a longer-term strategy,
although many positive results are already visible.
Antyodaya Yojana: Adverse media publicity about starvation deaths amongst
Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) led to order by the Supreme Court and a circular
by the Government of Maharashtra to include all Below Poverty Line families
from PTGs in the Antyodaya Yojana . ADS was requested to assist the Taluka administration
in identifying Katkari families and in filing their applications.
ADS organised meetings in 55 Katkari hamlets to give information about Antyodaya
Yojana and to identify families who needed support. Many of these meeting had
to be conducted on brick units since entire villages had migrated to work on
brick kilns. 1,325 Katkari families were assisted to fill up applications for
benefits under Antyodaya Yojana.
Ratnagiri District Katkari Melava: ADS is also engaged in strengthening
other NGOs working with Katkaris in the region. It has facilitated an informal
network of 5-6 groups. As part of this process, ADS collaborated with Shramik
Mukti Andolan in Ratnagiri District to highlight the problems of Katkaris in
Mandangad, Dapoli, Khed and Chiplun Talukas. A Melava and protest march was
organised in front of the Collector's Office in Ratnagiri. Over 3,500 Katkaris
participated in the Melava. The Katkaris submitted a Memorandum to the Government
through the Collector. The demands in the Memorandum are:
1. Provide benefit of Antyodaya Yojana to all Katkari families as per the Supreme
2. Declare all Katkari families owners of land on which they are staying as
per the Government Resolution of 29 May 2000 (Gharthan).
3. Provide housing to Katkaris under the Indira Awas Yojana.
4. Give a legal Gaothan to each Katkari hamlet.
5. Give Government wasteland to landless Katkari families for their livelihood.
6. Give caste certificates to each Katkari family by holding camps in all hamlets.
7. Make provisions for electricity and drinking water on all Katkari hamlets.
8. Prevent felling of trees on revenue land, forest land and private land for
9. Issue a notification clarifying that Katkaris have the right to collect and
sell leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, dry twigs, gum, honey, cashew, mango and
other Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFPs) from the forest.
10. Build tanks in all Katkari hamlets to enable Katkaris engage in fishing.
Also accept the traditional fishing rights of Katkaris and give them permission
to catch fish from the rivers.
11. Police should not unnecessarily harass Katkaris without concrete proof in
cases of robberies and thefts.
12. Conduct evaluation of all government programmes implemented till date for
the Katkari tribal community.
Agriculture Campaign: Given the fact that Katkaris are still in the
hunting-gathering mode, a need is felt to create awareness amongst the community
about the importance of agriculture-based livelihoods. A campaign was launched
in Katkari hamlets to motivate Katkari families to cultivate crops in the field.
This is part of the ADS approach to gradually wean away Katkaris from the bonded
labour on brick kilns by demonstrating alternative livelihood strategies. The
campaign resulted in cultivation on small patches of eight Dalli Plots, measuring
over 30 acres. The Katkari families were assisted in obtaining plough, bullocks,
implements, etc. and were also given seeds. Crops cultivated were sweet potato,
chilly, okra, cluster bean, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, brinjal, finger millet,
proso millet, dioscorea, rice, etc. Groups of families from 9 hamlets (Jambhulwadi,
Wadachiwadi, Shirse, Tamnath, Pulachiwadi, Potalpali, Khandpe, Beed Jamrukh
and Nivali) cultivated the crops. Most of the farmers were able to get between
Rs.7,000 to Rs.10,000 from their land out of the labour that they invested in
their fields over the three months of monsoon.
This served as an important example to other farmers who have borrowed upto
Rs.5,000 from contractors, and in turn, were indebted to the contractor for
a period of 8 months as bonded labour on brick kilns.
District-level camps: Two District-level camps were organised at Savarsai
and Pen to address issues being faced by Katkaris. Issues discussed were state
policies, livelihoods, agriculture, migration, education, etc. Over 800 Katkaris
participated in the camps.
Book on Katkaris: ADS has published a book on Katkaris in Marathi. The
book was sold at a concessional rate to many Katkari villages. 100 copies of
the book were purchased by the office of the Additional Tribal Commissioner,
Thane for distribution to Ashram Shalas.
Legal camps: Camps were organised during the reporting period to address
legal issues facing the Katkari community. Families were provided legal assistance
to deal with issues like land matters, police cases, personal disputes, atrocities,
civic amenities, government schemes, etc. Over 500 cases were handled during
the reporting period.
Nyaya panchayats: were organised in 15 villages to resolve disputes between
Katkaris and other communities. These helped a great deal in preventing unnecessary
disputes and in reducing communal tension.
Basic civic amenities: Twenty one-day divisional camps were organised
for Katkari youth to improve availability of basic civic amenities to the Katkaris.
The camps were organised at Neral, Bhaliwadi, Ambivili, Khandpe, Vaijnath, Potalpali,
Pashane, Mandavane, Gour Kamat, Vadap, Beed and Kadav). Issues like ration cards,
caste certificates, government schemes, land issues, nomination of legal heirs,
legal matters, police cases, chapter case, etc. were dealt with in these camps.
Over 600 Katkari people participated in these camps.
School enrolment: An Education Awareness Campaign was organised in 35
hamlets to encourage and motivate Katkari parents to enrol their children in
schools. 12 parents have so far enrolled their children in local schools. The
extremely small number of Katkari children attending schools is direct reflection
of the migration and socio-economic marginalisation of Katkaris.
Setu Shala: 18 Katkari children were motivated to attend Setu Shala
- the one month residential school to impart functional literacy to 6-14 year
old children who do not attend school. Fourteen children did the course.
* 150 families were assisted in preparing and submission of applications for
Gharthan to the Tehsildar. The houses of these families are located on land
owned by non-tribals
* ADS has filed complaints against non-tribal contractors who are illegally
excavating mud from Katkari-owned lands.
* Joint meetings were organised between brick kiln owners and Katkaris to resolve
payment and harassment disputes. Two families were assisted in getting additional
amounts of Rs.3,500 each for the work that they had done on the brick kilns.
* ADS staff met the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and other Forest
Department officials at Nagpur to discuss the issue of encroachment on forest
lands and Dalli Lands. There was an assurance to look into the matters.
* ADS has organised a National Consultation during March 2004 to highlight the
plight of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) in the country, with a focus on Katkaris.
Government officials and NGOs have been invited for the consultation.
FINDINGS OF A PRELIMINARY SURVEY OF 100 KATKARI HAMLETS IN KARJAT TALUKA
Population of Katkaris in Karjat Taluka
Total Population .... Men .... Women .... Children
10,239 ..................2773........2865 .........4601
Total number of houses ..... Huts .... Brick houses
.............2342 ................... 2167 .......... 175
Most of the Katkari houses are small huts. A very small number of Katkari families
live in brick houses. Most of the brick houses were built by the government
as part of the Indira Awas Yojana.
Houses on other people's land
Total houses .... On private land % .... On common land % .... On revenue land
% .... On forest land %
......2342 .................692 ........29.5% ..........1103 47. ..09% ...........238
......10.16% ........311 ....13.27%
A large number of Katkari villages are located on someone else's land. These
villages have to be prepared for eviction at a short notice. Gaothan land is
thus a major issue for Katkaris.
Men ... Women ... Total ... % age ...6-14 years .. % ...age 15-18 years ...%
...age Adults ....%
Men ....................1180 ....11.52% ..512 ............5% ...........276
.........2.69% .......392 ....3.82
Women .................500 .....4.88% ....299 .........2.92% .........90 ..........0.87%
Literacy is very low. Even those who are shown as literate do not have much
formal education. The school dropout rate is very high.
Important documents: Percentage of Katkaris deprived
Ration cards Caste certificate BPL listing Voter's list Voter Identification
.......68 % .............87 % ...........83 % .........7.5 % ..............10.19
A large number of Katkaris are deprived of important documents like ration
cards, caste certificates, BPL listing, etc.
Villages/ families with access to some civic amenities
Drinking water 24
Families with legal electric meter 83
Primary school 20 villages
Secondary school 0
Dispensary 2-10 Kms
Rice mill 3-10 Kms
Flour mill 0.5-5 Kms
Civic amenities are primitive in Katkari hamlets.
Total families Landless ...% .........Own land .....% ........Dalli land ....%
....Forest encroachment ....%
......2342 .......1720 .....73.44% ......255 ......10.88% ......544 .....23.22%
A very small number of Katkari families have their own land. Some of the families
who are shown as land owners either do not have possession of their own land
or they have given their land on 99 year lease to city people for petty sums
of money. A large number of Katkari families are landless. Families cultivating
land are even low.
Migration ......Child labour ........Bonded labour .........Indebted
..44.79% ...........11.55% .............62.46% .................56.46%
These figures are self-explanatory. The actual figures for all these categories
are much higher. Many families are afraid to speak out the reality.
LAND ISSUES OF TRIBALS
Forest encroachments: Many tribal families have been cultivating crops on lands
owned by the forest department since a long time. In some cases, the forest
department itself had given plots of land to landless families for growing crops
in order to reduce pressure on forests. The Government has subsequently decided
that all such encroachments should be 'regularised' and concerned tribal farmers
should be given legal ownership of the plots they have been cultivating over
a long period of time. However, the Government GR ordering regularisation of
encroachments has not been implemented. On the contrary, efforts are being made
by the Forest Department to evict the tenants from lands that they have been
tilling for decades.
Unregistered tenants: Many tribal families were forced to mortgage their lands
to moneylenders for borrowing some food grains or cash during periods of scarcity.
The moneylenders illegally usurped these lands. Tribal families continued to
cultivate some parts of these lands, although the land records show the moneylender
as the owner of the land. The tribals became unregistered tenants, since they
continued to cultivate the land.
The amount borrowed from moneylenders is at times quite small. For instance,
seventeen tribal families in Chaudharwadi village of Karjat Taluka in Raigad
District had borrowed Rs.10-20 each from the local moneylender by mortgaging
60 acres of their land. The tribal families were shown as defaulters and the
moneylender took away 60 acres of the land. All the seventeen families are today
struggling as unregistered tenants to prevent the sale of their land to outsiders
by the moneylender.
LAND REFORMS IN MAHARASHTRA
According to the Indian Constitution, agriculture is a state subject. The Union
Government only gives directives and the required support; it is the responsibility
of the state governments to pass legislation related to land rights, revenue
and other aspects of agriculture.
Maharashtra State came into being in 1960. The major land reform legislation
in Maharashtra pertains to tenancy; acquisition of surplus lands (Ceiling on
Holdings Act 1961); redistribution of lands held by the government to landless
families; regularisation of encroachment on public lands; and alienation of
LEGISLATION PERTAINING TO LAND
* The Permanent Settlement Act 1793.
* The Bombay Money Lending License Act 1946.
* The Bombay Agricultural Debtor's Relief Act 1947.
* The Bombay Prevention of Fragmentation and Consolidation of Holdings Act 1947.
* The Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act 1948.
* The Maharashtra Agricultural Land (Ceiling on Holdings Act 1961).
LEGISLATION PERTAINING TO ALIENATION OF TRIBAL LANDS
* The Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966. Section 36.
* The Maharashtra Land Revenue Code and Tenancy Laws (Amendment) Act 1974.
* The Maharashtra Restoration of lands to Scheduled Tribes Act 1974.
Ceiling lands: Government has allotted surplus land to some landless
families under the Land Ceiling Act. However, in many cases, the allotment of
Ceiling Land to landless families has taken place only on paper. The concerned
families have either not been shown the land or a large plot of land has been
allotted to a group of families without subdivision into plots for individual
families. In many cases, the original land owner, from whom the land was taken
under the ceiling legislation, continues to cultivate the land. In some cases,
the ceiling lands allotted to Katkari families have been encroached on by outsiders.
Hence, in reality most tribal families who have been allotted ceiling lands
do not actually have possession of the land.
Gaothan: The land on which a village is located is called Gaothan. Generally,
legal ownership of the village land or Gaothan is with the concerned village
if the village has existed on the plot of land for atleast 12 years. However,
in the case of many Katkari villages, the ownership of Gaothan is either with
the Forest Department, Revenue Department or non-tribal individuals (generally
moneylenders) even if the village has been located on that plot of land for
more than 12 years. Hence Katkari families living in such villages always live
under the yoke of the landowner. They can neither build better houses nor avail
of any Government programmes for basic amenities like drinking water, etc. in
villages. The landowner does not permit them to do anything on the land, and
on the contrary, forces Katkari families to move by harassing them.
Dalli and Eksali Lands: Dalli and Eksali lands are plots of land legally
given to landless people by the forest department for cultivation of crops.
The ownership of Dalli and Eksali plots is with the forest department, although
tribals have been cultivating these plots for over 60 years. There is a distinction
between Dalli and Eksali systems. The ownership of land in the Dalli system
is collective while Eksali plots have individual ownership. Dalli is found mainly
in Raigad while Eksali is common in Thane District. More than 6,000 tribal farmers
are cultivating over 33,000 acres of Dalli land in Raigad District alone. Thane
District too has a fair share of Eksali land holders. Most of these tribal families
are landless. The State Government has issued a GR stating that the ownership
of Dalli / Eksali plots cultivated by tribals should be legally handed over
to them. However, tribals have not become owners of Dalli / Eksali plots due
to the indifferent attitude of government agencies. NGOs in Raigad and Thane
have been campaigning on this issue for many years but a final decision on the
fate of Dalli / Eksali lands still seems elusive. Thousands of Dalli and Eksali
plot owners might lose ownership of the lands they have been cultivating for
decades if the State and Central Governments decide to evict the tribal families.