Govt. Of Orissa Activities Report 2004-05

New Constitution
My experience in R. Udayagiri
Sufferings of the Tribals of Khadial and Nuapada

New Constitution

Twenty- five years ago in the first session of the Constituent Assembly Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had delivered a historic speech that had greatly influenced me. But in my journey through the days of long social work witnessing the rising sufferings of the common man, nothing of that proud memory is left in me to be visible. It is true that I had become a member of the Constituent Assembly because after independence on being overcame by a weakness I had accepted the membership. But when the eminent jurists like Shri Gopalswamy Ayangar, Shri Ambedkar, Munshiji, Durgaben Desmukh, sitting in the first row, were found busy in writing the Constitution of our country collecting materials from the constitutions of different countries, I, sitting in the last row, was feeling like a helpless school student. The thought crossed my mind that I did not have a place in the Constituent Assembly. The attempt to write the Constitution of our country by borrowing from the constitutions of other countries did not appear to me proper. During that time the historic Noakholi march by Mahatma Gandhi had started. I, however, decided to respond to the call by Late Thakkar Bapa to work amongst Namasudras of Tripura. To me this appeared more valuable than dozing in the last bench of the Constituent Assembly. I expressed my inability to continue and sent in my resignation letter to revered Rajendra Babu. To my satisfaction, he could appreciate my inability and accepted my resignation.

Twenty-five years have elapsed (since independence). Every educated Indian must think as to if we have progressed or regressed. Every educated Indian knows that despite the prevailing democracy based on the adult franchise, we have not progressed, rather regressed. So now it is the time when we should find ways towards the well being of our country. I am confident that poor, uneducated and hungry men of this country would find such ways. Only when these people, on realising the country’s situation, prepare a constitution, we shall get a real constitution.

(from the pages of diary 1971, published in the magazine Baji-courtsey Krushna Mohanty)

My experience in R. Udayagiri

Revered Gopababu (elder brother of Nabakrushna Chaudhury) while travelling on foot through R.Udayagiri was shocked to here the stories of oppression of the tribal people by Muthadars. He felt the condition prevailing as worse as could be in hell. He asked me and other friends to ascertain as to why in Agency areas, the recommendation of Thakkar Bapa were not implemented. I also received letters from one Sudhansu Sekhar Das of Jaleswar (of Baleswar district), who of his own was working in Udayagiri, requesting me to come to the area. I went to R. udayagiri on 5th June along with Sudhansu sekhar and Indramani Jena, a youth trained in Gandhi’s Sevagram. ****** I traveled on foot and got opportunity to see and understand the conditions prevailing in the villages. As scenic and beautiful the natural surroundings of these villages were so heart rendering were the stories of oppression of the tribals. The country has become independent. But it is hard to believe if the government is running on people’s wish and working in the people’s interest. The tribals of this region are either Kondhs or Sudha Sabar. This area is known as Agency area. For the last fifty to sixty years various kinds of exploitation like forced free labour (called Bethi, one who does Bethi is called Bethia), taxing the tribal households and the villages have been in vogue. The situation prevailing during British rule is still prevalent. The government of independent India has not paid any attention to it. The land settlement has not taken place in this area. No land rent is charged. It is due to such reasons, say the officials of the area, that the practice of forced free labour and other forms of taxing the tribals are still prevailing. Instead of collecting land rents, the collection of household tax and village tax is made from the Sabar and Kondhs. The government rates are such that the tax on a village Atarsingh came to be Rs.1335.00, where as per household rate is Rs.40.00. Besides the tribals are forced to offer their labour for the construction of the road. By the government order, from each house a person has to offer his labour. From each village thus 30 to 40 people participate. At the end of the month, they are given in aggregate Rs.3.00 or maximum Rs.3.50 i.e. 30 to 40 people working for a month under the sun making their own arrangement for food get in toto only Rs.3.00 or at the most Rs.3.50! What a novel way of executing the work! The new road Paribhita, the construction of which the new Tahasildar is supervising with the assistance of the forced free labour , I wonder if it can be undertaken without the labour of the Sabars; the road on the hilly terrain! It appears that the construction of Rameswar Bridge by Hanumaniji’s workforce would have been easier. One who has seen the Paribhita road will not fail to realise that he is a criminal who has got this road constructed by forced free labour. In the entire agency the Muthadari practice is going on. Muthadar (lowest revenue official of the king engaged in collecting revenues from a group of villages) and his subordinates like Hudadar, Pesinia, Hendia and Paik are all non-tribals, locally called ‘Odia’. Surprisingly he non-tribals are not charged any tax, neither they are forced to offer free labour. So the tax are collected from the tribals to support these non-tribals. Besides these non-tribals are granted rent free lands. They, whenever wish, go to the tribal villages and collect their requirements from the fields the tribals cultivate. The Bethias are summoned by the Hendia to carry the baggages of the likes of the school teachers or others arriving in this region. For such service, which require them to carry baggages for nine to ten miles, they hardly get two or three annas. The tax collection in Agency villages are still under taken as per the provisions in Taylor’s Memoirs printed in the year 1902. Some parts of the Agency lie inside the domain of Zamindari. Rest of the area lie in the domain of the government. At least in this part of the Agency area, the Muthadari practice should be stopped.

I have discussed at length the situation of Udayagiri with Mr. Ramanathan, the member Board of Revenue. I could understand that he also realises the abolition of this practice. It is regrettable that this aspect has not received due attention though the Congress government has been running the state for the last six years. It is reliably learnt that Mr. Udayanath Rath a government servant has submitted a report to the government suggesting a workable procedure suited to the area. It is necessary that his report should be published and if necessary by bringing about suitable changes in this report the suggestion should be given effect in superssession of the provisions of the Taylor’s Memoirs.

(20.07.1952, Gramsevak)

Sufferings of the Tribals of Khadial and Nuapada

On 13th last, I had gone to see a service centre at village Bhel of Nuapada subdivision. One who was trained in women training centre at Angul managed this centre. I got the opportunity of interacting with various sections of the people like common traders, pleaders, workers and well wishers of the village. They were unanimous in their observation that unless the problem of the Badajhar jungle was not immediately solved, the discontent brewing among the people could lead to rebellion.

In my view the government and people must pay attention to this problem which I describe below.

In Nuapada even now the tenancy law of Madhya Pradesh is in vogue. So from the period of Zamindars till today, it is the revenue department of the government which continues to hold the power to issue the title of land (patta). The Patwari under the Revenue Inspector has kept the common villagers frightened. Since long the uncultivated land not settled against any body has been termed as Badajhar jungle, ironically, which does not contain even single big tree. Only in name-sake it is called a jungle. So the father of the present Zamindar had allowed the tenants to cultivate the uncultivated lands of Badajhar Jungle after charging them Salami (a fee charged in the beginning of the transaction), not, however, without the permission from the revenue department of the government. The present Zamindar has also allowed it and has informed the revenue department. The tribals, harijans and other tenants so allowed, having paid the Salami to the satisfaction of Zamindar, have been cultivating such lands for the last four to five years. The revenue department, however, is yet to settle these lands in favour of the cultivating tenants. Instead after the abolition of Zamindari, the government is snatching away these lands from the possession of the cultivating people. Specifically all the poor tenants of the Silatpani village have been dispossessed of the lands they were cultivating and have thus been thrown into distress. They can not approach the judiciary in the absence of the title papers over the land.

Such behaviour from the government servants, particularly after the abolition of Zamindari, has naturally created a feeling among the common people that ‘ Zamindari was good’. The government should pay immediate attention to this problem otherwise the poor tribal and harijan tenants will be harassed and the government servants may by taking bribe would settle such lands in favour of those who are already landowners.

At the time when Vinoba’s Bhoodan Movement is emphasing on providing land to landless, does such dispossession appears ridiculous?

26.01.1953, Gramasevak

Photographs : Kasturi Mruga Sama by Manmohan Chaudhury; Numa- A compilation; Smaranika, published by Utkal Navajeevan Mandal; Shradhanjali, published by Bastia Memorial Trust; Adwitiya, published by Nabakrushna Chaudhury Centenary Committee; Ajnanku Abhinandan, published by Banabasi seva Samiti, Baliguda; Ajna by Subhas Chandra Mishra; Pathikrit published by Lohia Academy Trust

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