Being forced to move away from home for work can dramatically diminish your quality of life. It means having to spend time away from your family and your friends. It makes you vulnerable, so you can easily be taken advantage of and made to work in unsafe conditions for unfair wages.
Six families, living in one of the northern states in India, consistently had to migrate for work. They were unable to make a living off their plot of land as they needed more space to grow enough crops to survive. But they were unsure of where the boundaries of the land lay and had disputes with the Forest Department about this, and no money to fight a legal battle.
This is how they got their land back.
Speaking out for change
Tearfund introduced the idea of forming Village Development Committees (VDC) in rural communities as a way to connect people so they can bring about the change they wanted to see locally. They have been successful at making sure that a range of voices are heard, including women, people with disabilities and youth. Our local partners connect with the VDCs regularly to offer support and guidance where needed.
Kumar and Prem* attended a local VDC meeting with their families and shared the difficulties they were having. The VDC was able to advise them on how they could raise the issue as a grievance by writing an application and submitting it to be reviewed by the government.
Staff from the VDC also spoke with them about liaising with the Forest Department directly and accompanied Kumar and Prem to a meeting with them. After showing the forest rangers the land maps and deeds, they found that the villagers were correct. The Forest Department surveyed the land and gave back nine acres to the families.
The victory continues – and so does the support
Kumar, Prem and their families are no longer forced to look for work elsewhere, and can stay together as a family. But that is just the beginning.
The VDC has continued to help the families by making the land fit to cultivate again. Rocks have been removed and conservation measures have been put in place to trap moisture and stop erosion. The VDC has also been instrumental in helping the community access government funds so that the families can build a well to irrigate the land better.
Being able to claim the land back from the government has given these families their dignity back. Kumar, Prem and their families will now be able to grow crops on their land and have a stable income, which will help them to overcome poverty.
God, we thank you that even when things seem impossible you make a way. We praise you for the invaluable work of the VDC in not only helping Kumar, Prem and their families to reclaim their land, but also how they’re being used as a vehicle of change across India. We lift up other marginalised and vulnerable families that are stuck in similar situations, and pray for solutions that will help them overcome poverty. Amen.
*All names have been changed to protect identities