The Institute of Social Movement (ISM) and the British-based charity Oxfam organised a rally on Monday to push the government for the regularisation of land in the province. The ISM and Oxfam are trying to register villages to monitor growth.
As the Sindh Gothabad scheme is still carrying out a survey to gather the official number of villages in the province, independent estimates claim that an overwhelming number of villages have no legal status. “Some villages are categorised as unregistered as they are built on state land such as forests, deserts, river beds and mountain ranges. Even land given by landlords to their peasants is categorised as unregistered,” said ISM director Zulfikar Shah at the rally.
Shah discussed property rights and explained that the residential right is defined as the house owners’ legal right to the property. “It suggests that the owner, by law has the authority of sole ownership. He can sell the property and in case of his death the property can be inherited by his family,” Shah said. “Inheritance is a serious issue and often creates conflicts within a family. Since no legal recourse is available, inheritance and other matters fall under the jirga or panchayat domains.”
Shah added that a majority of villages in the province face a difficulty selling and transferring property rights.
Addressing ownership concerns about peasants residing on land provided by a landlord, Shah said that it is very common. “There are villages in Thar and other parts of the province where this type of temporary accommodation is on the rise. However, considering that their jobs are not secured through a contract, how long can they live on land at the discretion of the landlord,” he said.
Activist Punhal Sariyo pointed out that villages in Kachcha areas, have been there for centuries. “The villagers there have government schools, hospitals, police stations, electricity and gas supplies. Yet, there are no embankments to protect them from the floods,” she said. Sariyo added that the villagers don’t have property rights either.
A large number of people participated joined in the rally from different villages near Hyderabad and called for the regularisation of villages and property ownership. They also complained about a lack of infrastructure facilities in the villages.
Regularisation of villages
In May 2010, provincial Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah claimed that the government had regularised 150 villages in Sindh.
According to Sindh Gothabad Scheme Project Director Syed Imtiaz Ali Shah, the scheme was established to conduct a survey in villages for registration. He declined to comment on the latest status of regularisation. “This is an official record which cannot be provided to the media,” he said.
Zulfiqar Shah claims that so far only villages in Jamshoro and Johi have been registered.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2011.