How Bihar Plans To Reduce Land Dispute-Related Crimes

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jun 5, 2021 01:52 PM +05:30 IST
How Bihar Plans To Reduce Land Dispute-Related CrimesBihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. (K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images)
  • More than 60 per cent of all violent crimes in the state owe their origin to land disputes.

    According to the National Crime Records Bureau statistics for 2019, Bihar recorded 3,707 incidents of crime due to land and property disputes, which resulted in 5,227 deaths and grievous injuries.

Bihar plans to utilise the services of its village ‘chowkidars’ (watchmen) and other grassroots-level government staff like ASHA workers to gather information on land disputes and fast-track their resolution.

That’s because more than 60 per cent of all violent crimes in the state owe their origin to land disputes. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has, over the past two years, been harping on the need to quickly resolve land disputes to bring down the crime rate in the state.

At a high-level meeting held on Friday afternoon to review the law and order situation in the state, Kumar tasked district magistrates and superintendents of police to hold meetings every fortnight to review and dispose of land dispute cases.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics for 2019 (the report for 2020 is being prepared), Bihar recorded 3,707 incidents of crime due to land and property disputes, which resulted in 5,227 deaths and grievous injuries.

The all-India figures for crimes related to land and property disputes in 2019 was 8,877 and lives lost or serious injuries caused due to conflicts over such disputes was 11,630. Bihar, thus, accounted for nearly 45 per cent of the deaths and injuries in India over land and property disputes.

Facing flak for the state’s rising crime graph — this became a major issue in last year’s Assembly polls also — Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has come up with the idea of resolving such disputes quickly.

According to state Agriculture Minister Amrendra Pratap Singh, an overwhelming majority of all crimes over property and land disputes occur mostly in the rural areas of the state.

“And such disputes take a violent turn when they are allowed to fester over a long time. The parties to the dispute get frustrated and they take the law into their own hands then,” the minister reasoned.

That’s why Chief Minister Kumar came up with the idea of putting in place a mechanism to get information on such disputes when they are at a nascent stage.

“The village chowkidar, the postman, the ASHA (accredited social health activist) worker and some others who are in constant touch with people in the villages and are privy to all that happens in a village are being recruited into this statewide information-gathering network,” said Rural Works Minister Jayant Raj Kushwaha.

Policemen posted in rural areas and revenue and other officials at the grassroots levels will be tasked with the responsibility of keeping in constant touch with the village chowkidars, postmen, ASHA workers and others to collect information about land and property disputes.

“They (the government officials at the grassroots level) will then pass on all the information they gather to the DM and the SP. These two will then resolve the disputes so that they (the disputes) don’t land in courts where resolution is a long-drawn affair resulting in frustration and crime,” said Kushwaha.

Kumar has also asked sub-divisional officers (SDOs) and sub-divisional police officers (SDPOs) to hold meetings with circle officers and station house officers (SHOs) every week to hear and resolve all property and land dispute cases.

“The Chief Minister has suggested that the officers at the sub-divisional summon all parties to every such dispute in the areas under their jurisdiction and resolve them in a just and fair manner as per the provisions of the law and to the satisfaction of all the parties,” said a senior bureaucrat serving in the land revenue department.

The assistance of elected representatives of panchayats and panchayat samitis can also be taken to resolve such disputes.

In case officers at the sub-divisional level cannot resolve the disputes, they will refer the unresolved disputes to the DM and SP of the district.

“For village folks, the intervention of the DM and SP would ensure resolution of even seemingly intractable disputes since they hold these two officers in very high esteem,” said minister Kushwaha.

Apart from murders and assaults, most of the 10,707 cases of kidnappings that Bihar witnessed in 2019 were the result of land and property disputes.

The crime figure (all crimes) for Bihar in 2019 stood at 2,69,109 — that’s a substantial rise since the days of the RJD rule which Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has been portraying as ‘jungle raj’.

The RJD blunted that ‘jungle raj’ charge during last year’s Assembly election campaign by citing Bihar’s rising crime graph under Nitish Kumar.

According to assessments carried out by state police brass, at least 60 per cent of the land and property disputes can be amicably resolved if dispute-resolution is attempted at an early stage.

That’s why Nitish Kumar is keen on information about such disputes being gathered at an early stage and the quick resolution of such disputes by district officials.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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