Some Findings on the Political Economy of Land Rights

Dear all, 

We are pleased to present findings from our research project on "The Political Economy of Land Rights and Federalism in the Fifth and Sixth Schedule Areas: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat and Meghalaya", which is a research collaboration between the Centre for Policy Research Land Rights Initiative ("CPR-LRI") and the Centre on Law and Social Transformation ("LawTransform"), as well as comments by various experts and stakeholders on these findings during our conference on "Land Rights, Land Acquisition, and Inclusive Development in India", held on March 2 and 3, 2017. 

Though only 8.2% of the total population, the Scheduled Tribes (ST) constitute 55% of the people displaced since independence due to the construction of dams, mines, industrial development and the creation of wildlife parks and sanctuaries. Poverty and landlessness is rampant amongst the STs. 51% of all STs are below the poverty line compared to 40.2% for the national average, and 65% of the STs are landless as per the 2011 Census. Therefore, clearly, this group has disproportionately borne the burden of economic development.

This, despite the fact that the Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Indian Constitution carve out a separate legal and administrative framework for certain designated tribal majority areas within the territory of India. The Fifth Schedule designates tribal majority areas in ten tribal minority states within peninsular India including, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan. The Sixth Schedule designates such tribal majority areas in north eastern states, including Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. Of these, Meghalaya and Mizoram are tribal majority states.

This begs the question as to why despite the existence of special constitutional and legal provisions for safeguarding the rights of tribals to land and also special affirmative action provisions for the STs, they continue to remain the most displaced, most vulnerable, and most impoverished of all groups in India. Through archival and field research in the states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the CPR-LRI team presents some key findings in response to this question. 

Key findings

  • No data existed on the extent of geographical area in the Scheduled Areas. Based on extensive Census 2011 village and district level mapping of data, the Initiative has determined that 10.5% of all India’s geographical area lies within the Scheduled Areas.

  • Based on Census 2011 data available with the Initiative, even though the Scheduled areas were designated tribal majority areas, on average today, only 30% of the population in the Scheduled areas is tribal. That is, in actual fact, the designated tribal majority areas are tribal minority areas today due to continuous displacement of the tribals.

  • On all three narratives of development, representation, and rights to land, the Scheduled Tribes are pitted against the dominant mainstream of Indian society. The power imbalance between the tribals and the mainstream society requires both protective laws and a powerful state disposed towards the protection of the Scheduled Tribes.

  • The special protective provisions in the Fifth and Sixth Schedules cannot be seen in a vacuum but have to be seen against the backdrop of a contrary legal regime of land acquisition, forest and mining laws, through which the state actively displaces and facilitates the displacement of tribals from the Scheduled Areas.

  • The protective legal regimes fail also because of meagre financial allocations for their implementation and active subversion or confused implementation of the regimes by the administration.


Video Recording of Presentations and Panel Discussions 

A. Presentations 

1. Dr. Namita Wahi, Fellow, CPR and Director, Land Rights Initiative, and Ankit Bhatia, Research Associate, CPR, on "The Political Economy of Land Rights in the Scheduled Areas of India", 

2. Dr. Kavita Soreide, Post Doctoral Fellow, Centre on Law and Social Transformation on "Tribal Representation and Local Self Governance in Meghalaya"

B. Panel Discussions 

1. Panel Discussion on "The Political Economy of Land Rights in the Scheduled Areas". This session was chaired by Mr. Deepak Sanan, former Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Himachal Pradesh, and featured comments on the first presentation by Mr. Walter Fernandes, Senior Fellow (Professor), Northeastern Research Centre, Guwahati, Professor Nandini Sundar, Delhi School of Economics, Mr. Ravi Rebbapragada, Executive Director, Samata, and Mr. Ambrish Mehta, ARCH Vahini. 

2. Panel Discussion on "Federalism and the Fifth and Sixth Schedules to the Constitution". This session was chaired by Professor Siri Gloppen, Director, Centre on Law and Social Transformation, and featured comments on the second presentation by Mr. Walter Fernandes, Senior Fellow ((Professor), Northeastern Research Centre, Guwahati, Ms. Patricia Mukhim, Editor, Shillong Times, Dr. VNVK Sastry, Social Anthropologist and Senior Consultant and former Director of the Tribal Cultural Research and Training Institute, Hyderabad, Mr. Ambrish Mehta, Trustee, ARCH-Vahini and Mr. Sagar Rabari, Jamin Adhikar Aandolan Gujarat.


Best regards,
CPR Land Rights Initiative Team