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A patch of land near the Nadappa village comprised 50 tribal families at one point.

Violators make hay, regulators don't shine

Sagar Refugee Colony, Ganga Sagar gram panchayat: Ever since her older son went off to work as a daily labourer in Kashmir two years ago, Sahajadi Bibi has to worry a little less about how to feed her family of eight.

The business of settling new-formed land, rehabilitation of environmental refugees and building and maintaining embankments is subject to much political manoeuvring. Anthropologist Amites Mukhopadhyay of Kalyani University, West Bengal, who's researched these machinations extensively, calls it " char politics'.

a discreet letter, che/gen-318/dp/gen, dated October 16, 2006, from the commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (mcgm) was recently discussed during its improvements committee meeting. Its subject line has worried urban planners and activists: "Policy guidelines for allowing development of lands reserved for public purposes of gymnasium, gymkhana club, stadium, swimming pool, recreation ground (rg) and play ground (pg).'

Dhurli village, Dantewada district, August 30, 11.30 am: Armed police in riot gear stand in clusters around the walled compound where people of this quiet, picturesque village are to gather for a gram sabha hearing. They are to decide today whether they want Essar Steel to set up a 3.2 million-tonne plant on their land for Rs 7,000 crore.

The mokasodari system has its origin in pre-liberation Goa when mokasodars used to collect revenue from the villagers. Says Amrut Kasar, land rights expert, a mokasodar was not just a revenue collectors, he enjoyed a high social and political status in the village. The Portuguese colonial rulers allowed the mokasodar's permanent land rights.

But there is no legal clarity over these rights because the original residents of the villages, the goankars, also claim ownership over the land they have been tilling and living on for centuries now.

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