Nagpur: Mendha (Lekha) in Gadchiroli district, the first village in the country to secure community forest rights (CFR) over 1,800 hectares, has moved the Nagpur Bench of Bombay high court to implement the Gramdan Act.
Justice AS Chandurkar and Justice Anil L Pansare issued notices and sought reply in four weeks from principal secretaries of forest and rural development, divisional commissioner and district collector all of who have been made respondents in the case.
According to petitioner Devaji Topha, president of Mendha (Lekha) Gramsabha which earned distinction for its struggle for self-rule, the Vinoba Bhave’s scheme of Gramdan has been legally recognized vide Maharashtra Gramdan Act 1964.
The Gramdan Act stipulates that if at least 75% of the landowners surrender their ownership over land to the Gramsabha and the land so surrendered is at least 60% of the village land, and the mechanism provided in the Act is followed, the village is notified as a Gramdan village. This will give wide powers mentioned in the Act besides all the powers that a gram panchayat enjoys.
“These powers are exercised by the gramsabha, and not by a few elected representatives. Gramdan thus takes a village intent on self-rule substantially ahead in that direction,” the petitioner states.
Mendha (Lekha) fulfilled all the conditions and completed all the formalities and was eventually notified as a gramdan village in 2013 vide a gazette notification of November 28, 2013. A 100% of the landowners in the village surrendered their ownership and the whole village land came under gramdan.
The Act provides that under its Section 39, it has to be notified by the state government that the gramsabha shall exercise all the powers and discharge all the duties and functions of the panchayat in relation to the Gramdan village.
Under Section 10, the list of the members is to be given to the gramsabha. After the notification of gramdan, the land records are to be suitably amended, substituting the name of gramsabha in the place of individual owners who have surrendered their ownership, and the record has to be entrusted to the gramsabha which is authorized to manage the lands vested in it under Section 28 of the Act.
“It was the duty of the district administration and the state government to take necessary steps within a reasonable period. However, this has not been done even after nine years,” said Topha.
The CEO of the Gadchiroli zilla parishad did recommend separation of the village from Lekha gram panchayat and the divisional commissioner also wrote to the revenue secretary endorsing the recommendation and requested that the notification under Section 39 be issued.
The matter was pursued at all levels, and even a high-level meeting chaired by revenue minister was held on December 20, 2021. However, no decision has been taken.
“Completion of these tasks is necessary to make Mendha (Lekha) a gramdan village in real sense. Only then the gramsabha will be empowered to discharge all of its functions and all the villagers will then be entitled to participate in the decision-making,” says the petitioner.
First Published by Times of India on 21 December, 2022.
Read the Press Note (in Marathi) written by Devaji Topha