Farmers and members of rural tribal communities are often swindled by corporations as they are unaware of their legal rights. Three farmers who underwent the same ordeal decided to fight back, and managed to get their rightful property back.
Three tribal farmers of Raigadh, Chhattisgarh, including Shantaram, had unlawfully lost their lands to Navdurga Pvt. Ltd., a sponge-iron company. Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, tribal farmers’ land cannot be acquired for industrial purposes.
But after fighting the company for three years in the High Court of Chhattisgarh, Shantaram and others have gained the rights for their land back. They have now legally leased out the land to the factory for the next 30 years. The amount of the lease is Rs. 30 lakh for a year, which ensures that the farmers are well-compensated for giving up their piece of land.
“It was a long battle, but farmers are used to hard work and patience. This victory proves that farmers have a voice in the Indian legal system, even when facing a big corporation,” Shantaram tells Rajesh Gupta, the Video Volunteers correspondent who first made a video on their issue, almost a year ago.
In 2013, local land dealers had aided the company with acquiring over 14 acres of land from the farmers illegally. These farmers, at that time, were unaware of the laws that protected their land, their primary source of livelihood. However, when they realized the company had wronged them, they started legal proceedings against it.
While the farmers won their land, the factory did not give it up until February 2015. It was then that Rajesh, their neighbour, decided to gather the whole village to support Shantaram.
Rajesh made a video of the issue and started gathering public support for the rights of the farmers. He held community meetings where he motivated the people to stand for their fellow farmers’ rights. Rajesh also attempted at holding a dialogue with the factory manager by holding a private screening for the factory. Finally, he conducted a screening at the Raigarh Collector’s office. After seeing the video, the administration decided to take definitive action against Navdurga Factory, which prompted the factory to take the rightful recourse.