The Gujarat High Court on Thursday pulled up the state government and the Bhoodan Samiti or Sarvodaya Mandal, saying mismanagement, lethargy and inaction were “frustrating the purpose of object and mission of the Bhoodan Movement”, which was started by freedom fighter Vinoba Bhave in the 1950s.
The High Court made the observation while rejecting a set of petitions — pertaining to the land allotted during the Bhoodan Movement — in which nearly two-dozen people joined as parties over the years.
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A group of petitioners had sought their land back after the plots donated during the movement were sold off by several beneficiaries. The other group of petitioners were those who were allotted the plots and sold them off, while the third set comprised the purchasers.
The High Court rejected all such petitions. It also refused to stay its order after the petitioners said that they want to challenge it. Justice Bela M Trivedi pronounced the judgment that ran into more than 80 pages. While rejecting the petitions, she has observed: “Mismanagement and lethargy on the part of the respondent Bhoodan Samiti or Sarvodaya Mandal and the apathy and inaction on the part of the Government in not taking appropriate action at the appropriate time against the allottees/donees of the Bhoodan lands have created a chaotic condition frustrating the very avowed purpose, object and mission of the Bhoodan Movement.”
The judgment began with questions such as “Should the avowed and laudable object of the Bhoodan Movement spearheaded by Acharya Shri Vinoba Bhave be allowed to be frustrated, and the sacrifices of lands made by the land owners in the Bhoodan Yagna for the benefit of landless persons be allowed to go in vain, on account of the lethargy and mismanagement of Bhoodan Committees, and the apathy and inaction of the State Government?” The judgment then goes on to lambast the Samiti and the government.
The judgment quoted a report submitted by the Samiti to the Revenue Department in 2013 that out of the total land admeasuring 1,03,530 acre received during the Bhoodan Movement, the land admeasuring 52,546 acre remained undistributed.
The judgment also revealed that in many cases Bhoodan land was acquired for developmental projects. In some cases, the donees illegally sold their land and in some cases agricultural activities became impossible because of the town planning schemes.
The judgment stated that in Gujarat — which was one of the largest beneficiaries of the Bhoodan Movement — “unfortunately” the subsequent governments — Bombay and Gujarat — didn’t enact a law to “facilitate, regulate, distribute and monitor such lands donated in the Bhoodan Yagna as also to monitor the functioning of Bhoodan Samitis”.
The court has criticised Bhoodan Samiti as it found that the Samiti itself “transferred large chunk of Bhoodan land in favour of one Ilyasbhai Ismailbhai Patel, without obtaining any permission from any government authorities, under the guise that the donee of the subject Bhoodan land was desirous of exchanging the land with the transferee.” The judgment terms it as “shocking sate of affairs”.
The High Court stated that with the passage of time the Bhoodan Samiti, constituted and recognised by the state, didn’t bother to keep a track of the land.
In the 1950s, Bhave started Bhoodan (land gift) Movement and travelled across the country on foot seeking land from land owners to voluntarily donate plots for landless people. The judgment said that the movement was based on the philosophy of “ancient Indian tradition of ‘danam samvibhag’ i.e. redistribution through willing donation and sharing.”
The court dismissed all the petitions, saying that the original land donors can’t claim their land back. The court also held sale and purchase of such land as illegal.