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FORWARDED APPEAL (India): Land entitlement of Adivasis in Aralam Farm is denied

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples (ACPP) regarding the situation of landless tribes in Kerala state. In spite of promises made by the state government in the past regarding resettlement, the members of the tribal communities are denied land by the state government. The AHRC wishes to forward this appeal for action issued by the ACPP, calling upon the state government to keep its promise.

FORWARDED APPEAL (India): Land entitlement of Adivasis in Aralam Farm is denied

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Forwarded Urgent Appeal: AHRC- FUA-007-2009

13 July 2009

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INDIA: Land entitlement of Adivasis in Aralam Farm is denied

ISSUES: Minority rights; right to life; corruption
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward an appeal from Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples (ACPP) regarding the situation of landless tribes in Kerala state. In spite of promises made by the state government in the past regarding resettlement, the members of the tribal communities are denied land by the state government. The AHRC wishes to forward this appeal for action issued by the ACPP, calling upon the state government to keep its promise.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Linda Noche
Coordinator
Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples
1/F, 52, Princess Margaret Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Phone: 852 - 2714 5123
Fax: 852 - 2712 0152
Email: ACPP-Hotline Asia hotline@acpp.org
Website: www.acpp.org

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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HOTLINE ASIA
URGENT APPEALS
UA090709 (6)
 
Defend Land Entitlement of Adivasis in Aralam Farm – INDIA

9 July 2009
 
SUMMARY
 
Indigenous peoples have strong ties to the land that they inhabit, Adivasis in Kerala of southern India, are one example.  However, the overwhelming majority of the Adivasis are landless and thus are economically marginalized.
 
To alleviate the economic hardship of the Adivasis, the Kerala state government bought land in Aralam Farm in 2004 which was financed from the Tribal Welfare Fund to resettle landless Adivasi families of Kannur and Wayanad districts of Kerala.  The government also promised to include a developmental programme for the welfare of the Adivasis.  Five years after the project was launched, the state government has failed in honoring this pledge.  Even worse, it is alleged that the state government is going to lease out a large proportion of the land to a private corporation; contradictory to the purpose of the plan.  In the process, Adivasis were neither consulted nor informed about the proposal and may constitute misuse of public funds.
 
Meanwhile, parallel to the issue of Aralam Farm, the state government reached the “Adivasi Agreement” with Adivasis in 2001 which stated that the government would distribute one to five acres of land to each landless Adivasi family.  The government also promised to include Adivasis in the plan for tribal development.  Regrettably, the Agreement has not been implemented, and the allegations about Aralam Farm further unveils the absence of commitment of the government to carry out land distribution for the subsistence of the Adivasis.
 
Local contacts informed ACPP that the state government will begin leasing out the land very soon.  To halt the plan of handing over Adivasi land to corporations, and to support the local campaign to fight for the right to land for indigenous peoples, please urge the Kerala government to honor their pledge immediately.
 
*** Please respond before 10 August 2009 ***
 
ACTION REQUESTED
 
Please write polite letters expressing your concerns about the problem of landlessness  of the Adivasis and request the authorities to:
- distribute the entire land in Aralam Farm to eligible landless Adivasi families as originally pledged;
- clarify the allegation of the handing over of land in Aralam Farm to corporations; and
- implement the “Adivasi Agreement” of 2001 to distribute land to landless Adivasi families.
 
 Send letters to:
Mr. V.S Achudanandan
Chief Minister of Kerala
Room No.141, Third Floor
North Block, Govt. Secretariat
Thiruvananthapuram - 1
Kerala State
INDIA
Fax: +91-471-233-3489
E-mail: chiefminister@kerala.gov.in
          
Send copies to:
1. Mr. A.K. Balan
The Tribal Welfare Minister
Room No. 731, Ground Floor
Speakers Old Chamber
Government Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram – 1
Kerala State
INDIA
 
2. Smt. Urmila Singh
Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
6th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhawan, Khan Market
New Delhi-110003
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 24624628
 
3. Diplomatic representatives of India in your countries.
 
SAMPLE LETTER
 
*** This is a sample letter for your reference, please try to write it on your own and avoid typing ‘cc ACPP’ on any part of your letter but send copies to us separately for monitoring purpose. ***
 
As indigenous peoples survive from the land they inhabit, we are deeply concerned about the landlessness problem of the Adivasis of Kannur and Wayanad districts of Kerala, whose lands have been taken away under the Forest Law and who are now living in an impoverished situation.
 
We appreciate that the state government bought the 7,000 acres of Aralam Farm and promised to distribute the land to the landless Adivasis of Kannur and Wayanad districts.  Nevertheless, since the land distribution was initiated in 2004, we are disappointed that only less than half of the land has been given to the beneficiaries.  Moreover, we have learnt of an allegation that the government is going to lease out the other half of the land to a private corporation.  If true, the plan is contradictory to the original purpose of buying land, and leaves thousands of Adivasis landless.  In addition, it raises the question of misuse of the public treasury as the buying of land was financed from the Tribal Welfare Fund.
 
Besides the issue of Aralam Farm, we humbly remind your government of its obligations under the 2001 “Adivasi Agreement” which promised to give one to five acres of land to each landless Adivasi family.  Also, this highlights the importance of the participation of the Adivasis in the plan for tribal development.  Regrettably, landlessness of the Adivasis is still prevalent, resulting in some Adivasis dying from hunger.  Tribal people seem to be neglected in the formulation of development plans which are directly linked to their interests.
 
The policy of buying lands from Aralam and the “Adivasi Agreement” are made for the well-being of the Adivasis, and they must be realized in practice, as such, we sincerely urge you to:
 
- distribute the entire land in Aralam Farm to eligible landless Adivasi families as originally pledged;
- clarify the allegation of the handing over of land in Aralam Farm to corporations; and
- implement the “Adivasi Agreement” of 2001 to distribute land to landless Adivasi families.
 
*** Thank You for Your Continued Support! ***
 
BACKGROUND
 
There are around 360,000 Adivasis living in Kerala, southern India.  Historically, Adivasi people inhabit the land and survive from it.  However, the proclamation of the Forest Law during British colonial times drove the Adivasis off their lands.  Large scale migration in the 1940s-1950s also took place forcing the Adivasis off their land.  The landless Adivasis then became economically deprived.  Due to the persistent struggle of Adivasi organizations, including the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha, Kerala Adivasi Forum, Adivasi Rashtriya Jana Sabha, the state government agreed to alleviate the economic hardships of the tribals.  In 2004 government launched the Aralam Farm project to allocate land to the Adivasis.
 
Aralam Farm
Aralam Farm, consisting of 12,000 acres of fertile land, is situated in the district of Kannur, Kerala. As part of the welfare programme for the tribal families of Kannur and Wayanad districts, the state government bought 7,000 acres from the central government using the Tribal Welfare Fund.  The Tribal Department at that time decided to set apart 3,500 acres of land to be distributed to the landless tribal families and to retain the other 3,500 acres as farmland itself. Until now, only 2,500 acres of land has been distributed to the landless Adivasis. The most fertile and income generating portions of the Farm are kept under the control of the Tribal Department.
 
The alleged plan of the government to lease the remaining land to a private corporation will dash the hope of Adivasis to acquire land for subsistence.  Moreover, it is unjust as the money to buy the land was financed from the public treasury.
 
Adivasi Agreement
To pacify the continuous struggle of the Adivasis, the state government reached the “Adivasi Agreement” with the tribal people in 2001.  It promised that each landless Adivasi family would be distributed one to five acres of land, and they would be included in the developmental plan.  Eight years have passed, yet the government shows no commitment to realize the pledge.  (also see UA061103(8)).
 
Deprivation of Rights to Land and Food
Landlessness results in Adivasis living in extreme poverty.  The cases of Adivasis dying from hunger show that the predicament must be addressed immediately by ensuring their rights to land and food.
 
Right to Land
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration), adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 affirms the rights of indigenous peoples, expresses concerns on their historical deprivation, and recognizes their needs and differences.  Throughout the Declaration, it is emphasized that the right to land is pivotal to their survival and to the maintenance of their cultures and traditions.
 
Article 26(1) of the Declaration clearly states that indigenous people have the right to lands, territories and resources which they traditionally owned, occupied, used or acquired.  Remedy must be given if they are dispossessed from their lands (art. 8(2)(b)).  In light of these provisions, as most of the Adivasi people are landless due to past colonial laws, therefore, the government should remedy the problem by implementing the “Adivasi Agreement”.
 
Right to Food
Besides the provisions of the above Declaration, in conjunction with right to land, the Indian government has obligations to ensure the right to adequate living standards based on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which India ratified in 1979.
 
The right to an adequate living standard, including adequate food, clothing and housing are enshrined in article 11 of the ICESCR.  The government has obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights.  As such, apart from providing food to people (fulfill), the government should respect the peoples' right to food.  General comment no. 12 on the right to food links accessibility to food, including availability of land, and also highlights the vulnerability of indigenous people whose ancestral lands may be threatened (para. 12 & 13).  Therefore, the government should not hand over the land of Aralam Farm to the corporations, and should allocate land to the Adivasis in accordance with the “Adivasi Agreement”.
 
Concerning the vulnerability of Adivasis and indigenous peoples in India, more than 10 UAs, such as, UA081003(6), UA080403(3), and UA080204(2), have been issued since 2001.
 
SOURCES
Gothra Bhoomi (local monthly magazine)
Madhyamam (local newspaper)
Mathrubhoomi (local newspaper)
The Hindu (local newspaper)
Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples
General Comments no. 12, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
Yours sincerely,
Linda Noche
Coordinator
 
Thank You for Your Continued Support.
 
Hotline is a service for Justice and Peace irrespective of class, race, religion, culture and political affiliation.  We issue "Urgent appeals" (UAs) on request from our network.  As you receive UAs free, we welcome contributions payable to: Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples Ltd.
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Hotline Asia gratefully acknowledges the support of AMA, Cordaid, Misereor, Missio, One Body One Spirit Movement and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.
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Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples
1/F, 52, Princess Margaret Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Phone: 852 - 2714 5123
Fax: 852 - 2712 0152
Website: www.acpp.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Posted on 2009-07-13

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