A ground-level study of implementation of the Agricultural Land Ceiling (ALC) Act in 36 villages of 13 talukas in six districts in Gujarat till 2015 has revealed that 43% of Dalits who were allotted land under the Act did not get actual possession of the land.
The findings and its impact on the status of Dalits in Gujarat have been chronicled in a book Land Reforms and Dalits in Gujarat, with the focus on the ALC Act.
The book, written by Manjula Laxman, Associate Professor of the Department of Rural Economics, Gujarat Vidhyapith, was released on Wednesday in the presence of Former Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University Ghanshyam Shah, former Vice Chancellor of Bhavnagar University Vidyut Joshi, Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith Anamik Shah and Dalit rights activist Valjibhai Patel.
The study found that a total of 1,21,094 acre land was distributed among 23,595 families in Gujarat between 1960 and 2015. Of these, 15,300 were Dalits. Only 3% Dalits are farmers in Gujarat and they possess only 2.9% of total cultivable land in the state.
The book focuses on implementation of the ALC Act in six districts, Ahmedabad, Amreli, Banaskantha, Bhavnagar, Surend-ranagar and Kutch, where Dalits were allotted maximum land.
Ghanshyam Shah, in his foreword, notes, “Regarding the so-called beneficiaries as per the government record, as many as 43 per cent of them do not have access to land that was supposed to have been allotted to them.”
Dominant upper caste people encroach upon the land as Dalits are in a vulnerable position with regard to the power structure of villages, and do not have the power to claim the land, the book found.
“Out of 423 beneficiary respondents in the select districts, 57 percent got possession of an average of two acres of land. Of these, 42 per cent got the entitlement between one and five years, the remaining one per cent took more than five years. There are cases in which they received the entitlement only after a legal battle of 25 years,” Shah says in the notes on findings of the book.
The book also examines the quality of land given under the ALC Act. “Only 27 per cent of the land was fit for direct cultivation. The remaining was saline, waterlogged, uneven, or stony. In such (land), direct cultivation was not possible…only 4 per cent received somewhat irrigated land,” Shah notes in his foreword to the book.