Poverty is not merely absence of money or assets, but most fundamentally, poverty is a consequence of the inability of capitalise whatever asset people may have, because of lack of formal title, and the high transaction cost.
Recognition and protection of property rights lie at the foundation of a free society. Property rights allows the development of market economy. With the spread of ownership of assets, people develop a stake in their community, and become active citizens. At the early stages of socio-economic development, land is the principal form of property.
For over a century, millions of Indians, largely indigenous tribes and others living in forest areas, have not had their land rights recognised by the state. A new law in 2006, acknowledges this historical injustice, and seeks to recognise the land rights of these remote and poor communities.
A short outline of this initiative may be found here. (PR-brochure-v2-2013)
Donations* by cheque may be mailed to:
ARCH Vahini, E-702, Samrajya Complex, Fatehgunj, Vadodara 390002, Gujarat. India
or transferred directly to:
Bank Account no. 01930100006389, Bank of Baroda, M S University Campus Branch, Vadodara
IFSC Code: BARB0MSUNIV (for domestic Indian transfer)
Contributions from well wishers abroad can be made by cheque payable to: "Friends of ARCH"
Kaushika Patel, 223 Nassau Blvd., Garden City Park, NY 11040. USA.
Tel No. +1-(516) 741-4155 ; Fax No. +1-(516) 873-8930
Friends of ARCH, Inc. is a non-profit, tax-exempt organisation. (Tax ID: 13-3903010)
* Donations to ARCH Vahini qualify for tax deduction under Section 80G of the Indian Income Tax Act.
ARCH Vahini, a grassroots NGO, has pioneered an initiative to help the people map their land in their own villages in forest areas of Gujarat. The villagers are using hand-held GPS devices, as well as using satellite images, where available, to document their land claims, and getting it endorsed at the village meetings (gram sabhas).
From the initial 25-30 villages covered under this initiative in 2010-11, there has been a sharp increase in demand from villagers in five other districts of Gujarat. Currently, about 100 villages are being covered under this initiative.
To meet the growing demand, with the help of some friends, additional hand-held GPS devices were purchased. In some instances, satellite images from the National Remote Sensing Centre, in Hyderabad, were also procured, to augment the imagery available through Google, and other publicly accessible sources. Requests are coming in from other states too, where some of the grassroots NGOs are expressing their interest to learn about this initiative, and undertake similar work in their own areas.
Apart from the practical aspects of mapping and documenting land, this is a truly people's initiative, where the local people are directly participating in collecting the information, learning to use the GPS, in a transparent and accoutable manner.
We would greatly welcome any help or suggestion you may be able to offer
For over 150 years, the land claims of tribal populations living in and forest areas were not recognised. Even in Independent India, tribal villagers were mostly seen as encroachers on state land or forest. Now the FRA has opened the possibility of land rights of the tribal villages being recognised. Most of these villages were not mapped because they were not revenue villages.
Some state governments are attempting to digitise land records, but there has been little effort to physically survey and map the land, and identify the claimants. The government's capacity to undertake such a massive survey exercise on the ground in remote areas is quite limited. Yet, the need for mapping and documenting the land in these villages has never been greater.
Over the years, land has emerged as the single biggest source for corruption and conflict. Land records are in very poor state. It is estimated that 80% of court cases in the lower judiciary is on account of land and property. The indigenous tribes, the poorest and most marginalized groups, are among the worst sufferers. Without any legal title over their land, they are largely seen as encroachers on their own land, even though they may have lived on that land for generations and even centuries.
With over 100 million population, it is believed that the tribal villagers may possess and operate about 40-50 million plots of land across India. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity to empower the most marginalised people in the country.