Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh calls it the ‘scam beyond parallel.’ Some 2.5 million acres of the 5 million acres donated under Acharya Vinobha Bhave’s Bhoodan movement has vanished without a trace, he said last week. The situation in Andhra Pradesh, the state where the Gandhian launched his movement 61 years ago, is no better. Some 76,000 acres of Bhoodan land has allegedly been cornered by people other than the intended beneficiaries. They include some land sharks and realtors.
Vinobha Bhave launched his movement in Pochampally village in Nalgonda district in 1951. It was the country’s first voluntary land redistribution initiative.
Since the movement was kicked off with a donation of 100 acres by a landlord of Pochampally, some 1.95 lakh acres was pledged to the movement. Of this, the AP Bhoodan Yagna Board distributed around 1.10 lakh acres till date.
Some 9,000 acres still remain with it but a staggering 76,000 acres has been cornered by non-eligible beneficiaries. Also, much of the 1.10 lakh actually distributed to the landless poor subsequently passed to ineligible persons. The Bhoodan Yagna Board rules stipulate that Bhoodan land cannot be sold.
Consequently, the AP Bhoodan Board is bogged down in litigation, says its chairman C V Chary, to fight which it has neither the staff nor the resources.
For example, realtors are said to have encroached upon around 600 acres of Bhoodan land in Rayapuram near Bibinagar alone.
There were several allegations against some of the functionaries of the board. One of them is alleged to have allotted the plot of land to two or three beneficiaries in return for a consideration. “Yes, there are several irregularities relating to allotment of lands to the poor,” said one board member, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I am fed up and have stopped attending board’s meetings.”
When the missing 76,000 acres of Bhoodan land came to light in 2010 and even figured in the Assembly, the state government promised action within six months. But nothing has happened till date.