Land to the tillers

Linked with Krishnammal Jagannaathan – India, and with Land for Tillers Freedom LAFTI.

Published on OneWorldSouthAsia, by Aditya Malaviya, Aug. 04, 2008.

For Sarvodaya activist Krishnammal Jagannathan land represents freedom. A lifelong Gandhian committed to the philosophy of self-reliance, 85-year-old Krishnammal and her 95-year-old husband S Jagannathan began a movement in 1968 called LAFTI-Land for the tillers’ freedom.

LAFTI started in Tamil Nadu in southern India as a non-violent movement to get land from landlords and distribute it to landless peasants. In two decades it has succeeded in redistributing thousands of acres of land to poor and low-caste families.

“The villagers tell Krishnammal how much land is available and where, and who the owner is. Then LAFTI negotiates with the landlord, usually demanding a rate that’s less than the market price.”

Since she didn’t have the money then to buy the land, Krishnammal decided it would be best to approach the matter professionally and set up an organisation to access funds.

“The model is actually very simple,” smiles Ariavelam of Ekta Parishad.

“The villagers tell Krishnammal how much land is available and where, and who the owner is. Then LAFTI, along with members of the local community, negotiate with the landlord, usually demanding a rate that’s less than the market price,” he says.

An agreement is then signed between the landlord and LAFTI, after which beneficiaries are selected. They have to be poor and landless. The gram sabha sets up a committee to select the beneficiaries. After the selection process, the community collects caste and income certificates, photographs and family card photocopies from the beneficiaries.

On another level, the management at LAFTI begins looking for
funds from banks, the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravida Housing and Development Corporation (TAHDCO) and the National SC and ST Financial Housing Development Corporation (NFHDC) that offer subsidies for this purpose.

The beneficiary must not be more than 50 years old, so an age certificate has to be included. The beneficiary must also be a Hindu dalit.

When distribution of the land starts, the beneficiary has to pay Rs. 5,000 as a first installment; the rest is paid within five years at the rate of 6% interest per annum. There is no penalty.

Before registration there is an agreement between the beneficiary and LAFTI that the land cannot be pledged or sold.

When final payment has been made, the original documents relating to the land are handed over to the beneficiary.

Till September 2007, around 12,000 people had received 11,066 acres of land. The land is also registered in the names of women in the family.

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Defying rules: … (full text).

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