India is in many ways a wealthy country. Yet the majority of its wealth lies in the pockets of just a few families and 400 million of its people remain entrenched in bitter poverty. India is now home to more malnourished children than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
Watch our video below to see what difference winning rights to their land has made for one village, Bajarangpura.
To play this video, simply click anywhere on this image and the video will appear in a pop up.
A fair share
So what isn’t working? Christian Aid and its partners believe that ensuring a fairer share of India’s land and resources for marginalised groups such as adivasis and dalits is imperative to ensure better opportunities for hundreds of millions of India’s poor.
‘In a country where 90-95 per cent of people are self-supported, there is no other way than giving rights over livelihoods resources to the people, land being one of the major ones’ Ekta Parishad’s President, Rajagopal, told us.
In India today, millions are at threat of being forced off their land due to schemes such as mining, wildlife sanctuaries, industrial development and nuclear power. Many of these are purported to have the potential to bring benefits to local communities such as electricity, better infrastructure including roads, and jobs.
‘Land is what we need to feed our children.’ Kalawati Bai
‘I will do or die in the footmarch but I will not return without our land rights or any promises.’ Maya Bai
‘Until each and every homeless and landless poor person in this country get their land rights, our journey, our mission is not going to stop.’ Ramesh Sharma, Ekta Parishad
But the reality is that a growing number of people are being displaced, often being paid minimal compensation to move from their homes and the only livelihoods they know. Increasing often, communities are being moved by force to ensure planned projects go ahead.
India’s progressive constitution includes pro-poor policies and laws that protect the rights of marginalised groups such as adivasis – India’s indigenous people and their descendants – and dalits, who comprise the majority of the landless poor.
Urgent action is needed
But many of these communities are unaware of their rights and are denied the option by local officials to grow food on the land they’ve lived on for decades, as well as access to forest areas and resources to sustain them.
‘If we wait too long there will be nothing left for the poor people’ said Rajagopal on the urgency of bringing the land issue to the attention of the national government and demanding the need for land re-distribution and pro-poor legal reform be given the attention it deserves.
He stressed: ‘No charity, no amount of other development activity is going to remove poverty from the earth unless people have control over land and livelihood resources’.
March in solidarity and join one of our march for justice UK walks