The villagers at Orchha in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district gathered in large numbers in a field belonging to one Suman Lal Usendi on Thursday to see the first borewell dug in their village, located deep inside the Maoist–affected Abujhmad region. There was jubilation when they saw water coming from the newly laid pipes connected to the borewell. This was the first time after 75 years of Independence that the village was getting such a benefit from the government, all thanks to the masahati survey being conducted in the region.
Abujhmad, straddled between Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, is known as ‘unknown hill’ as the 6,000 sq km of thick forest has not undergone any land revenue survey since the British era, preventing the villagers here from getting benefits of government scheme. The jungle is the epicenter of Maoist activities and about a dozen senior cadres of Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI (Maoist) are said to be still camping there.
However, the Narayanpur district administration is now making headway in conducting masahati survey in the region, which is a survey of people in the area where land holdings are determined through gram sabhas. An initial survey of 53 villages has been completed so far, according to officials.
Compared to the land revenue survey, the masahati survey takes less time because the revenue survey involves capturing satellite images of the area, identifying the village’s boundaries, door-to-door and village-to-village survey and distribution of title deeds. Officials said that masahati survey is advantageous because instead of conducting a revenue survey, which is an arduous and time-consuming undertaking, the administration is determining the land holdings of villagers through their gram sabhas.
The state government under special provision decided to give all government benefits on the basis of mashati survey hence everything including kisan credit cards, tube-wells, benefits of paddy procurement will be given to them, officials added.
“After I got the masahati survey number, I got a tube-well and now I will get a solar pump from the government. I am happy that now I can apply for a loan for farming and my paddy will be procured on MSP (Minimum Support Price) by the government,” said Usendi.
“The survey has been pursued after the state government granted us special permission in 2019. Naraynpur has taken a major step forward, especially the Abujhmad section, which remains unsurveyed till now. The masahati survey is the first step in recognising residents as bhumi swamis (title holders). The survey started in 1991 and later it was revived in 2013 and 2017 but was unsuccessful,” said Naryanpur collector, Rituraj Raghuvanshi.
“After defining the village boundaries, the Gram Sabha meets and we determine how much land each person owns. A nazri naqsha is eventually prepared. It is then certified by the gram sabha. However, Nazri Nakshas is not always accurate. It is drawn by hand and contains information on all villagers’ landholdings. The next step is the simankan (demarcation) pursued by the RI, tehsildars. The final step is the distribution of the title deeds,” Raguvanshi added.
The survey will cover 253 villages and till now a Matahati Survey number has already been assigned to 5,000 villagers in 53 villages of Abujhmaad.
The survey will benefit a population of at least 50,000, mainly tribals, residing in around 250 villages of Abujhmad to get patta (title deed) for the land they were possessing.
Officials in Bastar believe that the attempt of the state government to provide title deeds will also help to curb Maoism in the region.
“If the government provides benefits after the title deed was given, the Maoists will lose their grip in the region. The tribals will definitely take the benefits of the government and therefore will connect to the administration, which Maoists never wanted,” said a senior police official.