20 May 2024  |   02:03am IST

RIGHTS not in sight

The tenants and mundkars in Goa have been fighting for years to get their rights under Agriculture Tenancy Act and Mundkar Act. But unfortunately no ray of hope is being seen as there is still a huge number of cases pending in various courts of Mamlatdars across the State. There’s total 4,804 cases pending in the State, with 2,107 in South Goa and 2,697 in the North. Pendency in mundkar and tenancy cases has been attributed to several factors, including the officials being assigned frequent magisterial duties leading to adjournments, election duties, parties given repeated opportunities to file replies and absence of parties during proceedings. ANILKUMAR MISHRA digs deep into the issue to find out the fallout of the mounting pendency of cases
RIGHTS not in sight

While the issue of Tenancy and the Mundkar Act and the problems related to it have been there for many years, what the poor farmers have received as a solution from the government is just lip service.

During Portuguese rule, there was a mundkar system in Goa which in the 16th century allowed the tenant farmers to live and cultivate on the land owned by landlords in exchange for labour and a share of the agricultural produce. However, with passage of time it underwent various legislative developments.

The Goa, Daman and Diu Mundkars (Protection from Eviction) Act of 1975 was introduced to prevent arbitrary evictions of the mundkars and also protected their rights. But unfortunately the Act appears to be on only paper as these sons of the soil are still entangled in litigation, which is an expensive affair.

The issue has been raised in the State Assembly on several occasions and government has promised the opposition benches that it will appointment Mamlatdars, exclusively to look after the Kul-Mundkar cases, but matter of fact is that the assurances have remained lip service only and still Mamlatdars are deployed for various duties, including on election duty.

Even this year, the hearings were not held as Mamlatdars were busy on election duty. On the occasion of Goa Liberation Day last year, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had lamented that Kul-Mundkar cases had been pending for the last 62 years of Liberation and promised that the Kul-Mundkar cases would be fast tracked.

“We have seen that even after 62 years of liberation of Goa from Portuguese rule, Kul Mundkar cases are still pending. However, the government is trying to solve those cases and now they will be resolved on a fast-track basis. These issues will be resolved soon,” the Chief Minister had said on the occasion of Goa Liberation Day celebrated at Goa University Ground, Taleigao, last year.

“In an effort to address the concerns related to Tenant and Mundkar cases, the government is taking several steps and initiatives to expedite the resolution of cases and bring about a timely and satisfactory conclusion,” he had said.

However, intensifying their agitation, Goenchya Kul Mundkarancho Awaaz and Goa Kul Mundkar Sangharsh Samiti had submitted a memorandum to the North Goa Collector in October last year, complaining that the anti-people policies of the State government are being created with one point agenda of marginalising traditional communities of Goa, dispossessing them of their traditional rights.

Drawing attention towards the Goa Agricultural Tenancy (Amendment) Act 2014, the Goenchya Kul Mundkarancho Awaaz and Goa Kul Mundkar Sangharsh Samiti informed that this was part of a hidden agenda to take away lands from tenants.

Pointing out that the government seems to have conveniently forgotten that the original noble intention of the 1964 Tenancy Act was to provide security to land tillers, who were actually cultivating the land for their survival and the food security of the community, the Goenchya Kul Mundkarancho Awaaz and Kul Mundkar Sangharsh Samiti flayed the provision of the 2014 Act compelling tenants to declare their tenancy in the civil court.

The Goenchya Kul Mundkarancho Awaaz and the Goa Kul Mundkar Sangharsh Samiti underscored the fact that the only documents available for tenants to produce in a civil court are based on survey records of rights and the land revenue code, since over the years successive governments failed to prepare the record of rights mandatory under the original Act to protect the very land tillers who neither have lease contract nor rent receipts, despite working on the land tirelessly over many years.

“The government is surely aware that under the present system, the Mamlatdars through Talathis and other staff obtain reports through physical inspection and verification, while the civil court relies solely on documentation, which in many instances is difficult for a tenant to obtain,” the organisations said.

Goenchya Kul Mundkarancho Awaaz and Goa Kul Mundkar Sangharsh Samiti alleged that the agenda of the government was to transfer lands to people with vested interests, like builders and corporate lobbies , adding that further amendment to the Agricultural Tenancy Act 1976 is not required.

“If land lies fallow, it will revert to the original cultivator or land owner, instead of being given by the Mamlatdar to the adjoining tenant, or forming a cooperative as per the old Act,” they said.

Speaking to O Heraldo, Goa Kul Mundkar Sangharsh Samiti, Coordinator Dipesh Krishnanath Naik, said, “No, survey has been conducted for agricultural land. Survey has been conducted only under Land Revenue Act. The government has to conduct agriculture tenancy survey as per the law, wherein Mamlatdar and talathi have to go on the field and physically inspect the property. Then upon verification, they have to give Sanad to the person. We urge the government to order a survey as it will protect our agricultural land.”

“If it is done, then nobody can convert land and Goa will not require special status. We are worried over the rampant land filling going on in various parts of the state. Government is not at all interested in taking cognisance of it. People are being allowed to fill lands and no action has been taken. If some people come out to protest, immediate action is taken. But there is no action for those who are indulging in illegal land filling,” he pointed out.

“Earlier, farmers used to grow crops twice a year. But now, they are growing only once. Earlier, we were self-sufficient as far as food grains are concerned but now most of the things are brought from neighbouring States. Government has to take some initiative. Though it (the government) says that it is providing subsidies to farmers, it is not reflecting on the ground,” Naik said.

“The delay in procedure for deciding agricultural tenancy is directly affecting the people. All farmers cannot afford to approach the court. A person, who is giving us food, should not be asked to go to the court. We have to safeguard his life. Until and unless you give those rights and possession of properties for cultivation, it won’t be easy for agriculture to flourish,” he said.

“The current generation of farmers are being dissuaded by the government by entertaining the people from outside to purchase agricultural land. Government wants to sell Goa and that is the reason no survey has been conducted. Until they sell Goa, they won’t live in peace. This is the reason agriculture tenancy survey has not been conducted,” he charged.

Goenchya Kul Mundkarancho Awaaz, Convenor, Ramkrishna Jalmi said, “Till date farmers have not got rights from the government. In 2014 the then Manohar Parrikar government made changes in the Tenancy Act. He introduced Sunset clause, contract farming and judicial procedure.”

“We were supposed to produce documents in the court to prove our tenancy rights. Under contract farming, anybody could have taken the land from us and we could have lost right over the land. Under Sunset clause, we were supposed to prove within three years that the land belonged to us,” Jalmi said.

“All these laws were against the interest of farmers. They were meaningless. We are demanding that the government stick to the Tenancy and Mundkar Act enacted in 1976. The problem is the government and the landlords are hand in gloves, that is why the government is not coming forward and the cases are pending,” he said.

Explaining the reason behind the delay in disposal of the cases, advocate Surel Tilve said, “For Mundkar cases, if anybody’s name is not registered, then he has to first file an application for registration. Then notices are issued to Bhatkars, he comes and files objections if he has, then evidence is recorded. Then the order is passed. Then he has to file another application for declaration. Then again the same procedure is repeated. Then he has to file an application for purchase. Again the same procedure is repeated,” Tilve said.

“Many times cases are postponed as Mamlatdars are posted for other duties as well. This is one of the main reasons why the cases get delayed. Question is that once you are registered as a mundkar, why do you have to file so many applications? This can be resolved if the process is simplified and the mundkars are allowed to file just one application. In the first application itself, a mundkar can be asked for fixing the purchase price and making the declaration. Same thing is in the tenancy also,” he said.

“For so many years these cases have been filed, but matters are not being resolved. What can be done is that the government should come up with some law declaring that directly those persons who are staying in houses and have been allotted numbers, can purchase the propert by depositing the amount fixed for it. Once the amount is deposited, Bhatkar can come and claim his amount,” Tilve said.

“If Bhakar has any objection then the cases should be initiated. Some cases are unnecessarily pending. Many mundkars do not know who their Bhatkars are. In some cases Bhatkars may have settled abroad. So if their name is there in Form 14 in tenant column and in occupant column, then order can be passed stating that their house is there and they should be declared as the occupant,” he said.

He also suggested that if possible, there should be at least two Mamlatdars in each talukas exclusively looking after Mundkar and Tenancy cases, because many cases are not disposed of because Mamlatdars are busy with other work.

Meanwhile, Srinet Kothwale, Additional Collector-I, South Goa, said, “We have set a target to dispose of all pending cases within the next four months. Cases are being regularly heard, and under instructions, pending cases are continuously monitored. The number of pending cases has significantly decreased thanks to the implementation of Saturday courts.”

Revenue Minister Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate said that mundkarial cases are being sped up. He said that new cases are added to the old cases since there is no sunset clause, and cases are filed at anytime. Mamlatdars are attending hearings even on Saturdays so as to reduce the backlog of cases.

He said that some of the vacant posts of Mamlatdars will be filled through GPSC besides promoting the officers. He admitted that Mamlatdars are roped in for election duty thereby hampering the works.


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