Adivasis to be given 'conditional pattayams'

KOCHI, DEC. 30. In a significant step to forestall the sale of land to be allotted to the landless Adivasis shortly, the pattayams (title deeds) of the lands will have inbuilt pre-emptive provisions.

The likelihood of future alienation of the allotted lands by the land-hungry settlers has been a serious concern of Adivasi activists in view of the past experience. The inbuilt provisions would see that the lands could not be snatched away by the land sharks, a senior Revenue official told The Hindu.

About 380 Adivasi families from the Hill Pulaya and Muthuvaan tribes in Idukki district will be allotted lands ranging from one-and-a-half acres to five acres each at the historic land allotment scheduled to begin on January 1. The pattayams will be presented to them by the Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, at a function at Marayoor, 20 km close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. About 250 Hill Pulaya families would be allotted one-and-a-half acres each at Kummattaankuzhi near Marayoor.

As many as 83 Muthuvaan families, and up to 50 Hill Pulayas, who have agreed to move out of Marayoor panchayat, will be allotted five acres each at Kundla, about 25 km from Munnar. Most of the Hill Pulayas, a very clannish community, had refused to move out of their traditional habitat despite being offered five acres each at Kundla. Because of this, they would have to be content with an acre-and-a-half.

The Revenue official said the Adivasis would be given `conditional pattayams' in order that they would not be tempted to sell the allotted lands off and the outsiders would be able to buy them. The official said the allotted lands could not be sold off; it could only be bequeathed. He, however, clarified that this provision would not be a hurdle in securing bank loans as the lands could be pledged with the banks.

The pattayams would be issued in the name of two individuals. The head of the family and his/her spouse would be the co-owner of the land. This would also be a small step in the direction of gender equality, an Adivasi activist claimed.

If one spouse is dead, the eldest son or daughter of the couple would be the co-owner. This provision is to ensure that no single individual would exercise absolute control over the land and try to sell it off. This is significant in the context of the increasing alcohol addiction among the male members of certain tribes. In the past, alcoholic male members of the Adivasi families had sold off the family land for a pittance to find money for drinks. The Government is aware that the land sharks are waiting to take away the lands to be allotted to the Adivasis by hook or crook, the official said.

In view of the fact that several non-Adivasi men have recently married into Adivasi families -- in most cases for material gains -- the non-tribal husband would not be a co-owner. In such cases, pattayams will be issued in the name of the Adivasi woman and her eldest child.

Since many tribes follow the joint-family set-up, there are dozens of households that have two, three or even four families.

Land would be allotted to each of these--with a ceiling of three families. The advice of the `ooru koottam' would be taken on deciding the number of families.

To see that Adivasis would not die of starvation, the Government is setting up a `grain bank' so that each of the Adivasi family could borrow up to 200 kg of grain. This could be repaid in kind or cash in a year's time. This set-up is to take care of the food needs of the Adivasi families being allotted new lands and would not be able to yield an income initially. This provision is in accordance with the agreement the Government had reached with the Adivasi leadership in October after the 47-day agitation in Thiruvananthapuram.

The allotted land would be developed using the Adivasi manpower. The Central Government's `food-for-work' programme would be utilised so that the Adivasis could be partially paid for their labour in the form of grains. The Kerala Water Authority (KWA) is going to build a one-lakh-litre water tank to meet the water needs of Kummattaankuzhi. The foundation stone for the project would be laid at the January 1 ceremony. The Agriculture Department would purchase a tractor to take care of the ploughing as well as carrying of farm produce.

Interestingly, each Government employee in Idukki district will make a small contribution so that a library could be built at Kummattaankuzhi. The money for this would be found by the employees, by abstaining from `bad habits' like drinking for a couple of days.

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