The landless will now receive no land

 

Santosh Kumar

Santosh kumarThomas Isaac, the Finance minister of Kerala had declared in the budget that flats/apartments shall be constructed within a year and given to one lakh people in Kerala who do not have a proper home. This was also one of the budget declarations that were celebrated quite a lot in the media and among the general public. However, if one delves deep into the realities of this flat/apartment programme, it can be seen how this is merely a continuation of the colony-zation that happened in the aftermath of Land Reform Act. The government is hell bent on creating new colonies in a context where this very colony-isation exists as one of the reasons for the social, political and cultural marginalisation of Dalits, Adivasis and other backward classes. There are already 26193 Dalit colonies, 14000 Adivasi colonies, around 500 colonies resided by people from the fisherman community and many more occupied by the other backward classes in Kerala. Sugar-coating such 'new colony programmes' by calling it 'flat/apartment programmes' cannot efface the social marginalisation that it can create.

In Kerala, 4,72,000 lakh families live without proper homes as per the official records of the government. The Pinarayi government aims at constructing flat/apartments within 5 years for these families. As a start, a significant amount in the budget was allocated for constructing flats for 1 lakh families. Depending upon the number of people who are homeless within a taluk/panchayat, the government plans to rehabilitate minimum 100 families together in an apartment building. Each flat has an area of a mere 327 square feet, which means that a family, that may consist of grandparents, parents and 2 or 3 children, will have to live within this meagre space! Where shall the new generations of these families stay? Where will they make their homes? This only shows that the landless and the homeless can never bid farewell to their social insecurities any time soon. This is what the state also wants- a generation which is helpless, dependent and always in need of saviours.

Flat housing1

Flat housing2

As per this programme, which is named Affordable Housing Scheme, it is not possible to either sell or rent out the flat/house for 15-20 years. The racism behind their consciousness is clearly visible because it decides for itself that the 327 square feet will suffice for the Dalits, Adivasis, people from fisherman communities and other backward classes. They decide that this is 'affordable' or that this is enough for these 'others'. The value of an asset, which includes one's home, is also about its *negotiable value/merchandising value/transaction rate*, which is what the government denies these people. These flats/apartments cannot be utilised in order to fulfil their financial needs. Moreover, this 'house' is not their own. Only those who are able to remit a certain amount, like a loan, within 15-20 years, earn the house as their own. In short, these people have no rights/claims of their own on the house apart from just residing in it.

The families which possess neither land nor housing will be considered first as per the guidelines of the scheme named LIFE (Livelihood, inclusion, Financial, Empowerment). The landless are naturally homeless. So, the landless 2.5 lakh families shall receive the flat/houses first as part of this scheme. This is where the deceit of the state lies. The landless need not be given land; instead, it would suffice to give them flats/apartments. The Dalits, Adivasis, Fishermen, estate workers and other backward classes have been protesting for decades demanding land. The political consciousness, that made a generation that dreamt of land ownership realise that they have been pushed into lands of 5 or 10 cents post Land Reform Act, which led to the formation of Mutthanga, Chengara, Arippa and Nilupu (Standing) Struggles. It was through these struggles that new agreements for land were made. Also, they were not meant only for gaining their rights to land. The government has sabotaged the very essence of these struggles. Through its crafty diplomacy, the state has managed to rescue itself from accepting the demands of the 'Rights to Resources and Social Justice' of the oppressed, by marginalising them into new colonies or flats/apartments and denying them their rights to land. It is the landless people of Kerala who have protested against the illegal occupation of estate land by corporates like Tata Harrison and called for the implementation of the Dr. Rajamanikyam report that states for proper redistribution of land from the same. The question of landlessness disappears when they are given flats. So, the government does not have to take over even a cent of land that is illegally occupied by private companies and corporates.

There are over 6 Commission reports, High Court judgements and Supreme Court judgements that order the government to take over the land occupied by Tata Harrison that comes around 5 lakh acres of estate land. The government believes that if there are no landless people, they can escape from the political demand of taking over the illegally occupied land. Thus, the pathetic living conditions of the people of this land continue by strengthening the authority of the oppressors. The flat/apartment scheme only reinforces the savarna, elitist notion of keeping Dalits, Adivasis and other backward classes away from social and political positions of power by colony-ising them. Their demands- to question the structural and hierarchical relationship of caste because of which they are landless now, as well as for land and its proper redistribution- remain ignored.

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Santhosh Kumar is Chalo Thiruvananthapuram Struggle coordinator and he works at Keraleeyam Magazine.

This article was originally published as a Facebook Note in Malayalam. Translated by Amritha Mohan from University of Hyderabad.