Chennai: The TN government has constituted a state-level committee headed by the commissioner of land administration to study and submit a report suggesting modalities for retrieving panchami lands occupied by non-Dalits and restoring its ownership to Dalits.
The three-member committee, comprising secretaries of revenue and Adi Dravidar and tribal welfare departments as its members, has been formed in the wake of a Madras high court directive to the state government. The chief secretary K.Gnanadesikan issued a G.O. to this effect on October 8.
The high court in its order dated August 12, has directed the government to constitute a committee within six weeks as it has been receiving several petitions seeking formation of a committee to ascertain whether the land allotted to oppressed sections are being used for their welfare or not.
After studying the socio-economic condition of Dalits in the 1880s, the Chingleput collector J.H.A. Tremenheere recommended to the British government that cultivable lands should be distributed to depressed classes. Thereafter, a Depressed Classes Land Act was passed the next year. Since then, 12 lakh acres were assigned to Dalits across TN. The lands were called panchami lands.
This is the third committee to be formed for the retrieval of panchami lands. The first committee was headed by the then revenue minister of AIADMK government in 1991-96. The next panel was headed by retired Justice M. Maruthamuthu appointed by the previous DMK regime at the fag end of its tenure in January 2011.
“Unlike previous committees, this committee has been constituted on the basis of the high court order. Hence, we hope it helps restore ownership of panchami lands to Dalits,” VCK general secretary D. Ravikumar said.
The committee should make use of inputs from activists to identify panchami lands under occupation of non-Dalits and retrieve it, Tamil Nadu untouchability eradication front president P. Sampath said.