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Report No. 130

Press Statement

The Benami (Prohibition of Right to Recover Property) Ordinance
Sarvodaya Representation to the President.

A People's Movement is the only Remedy

During the early sixties the landlord lobby in the ruling party manoeuvred to provide all sorts of loopholes and exemption clauses to escape from the Land Ceiling Act that they managed to cover up almost all their lands by benami transactions and the surplus lands to come under the Act was very negligible. Since then the word "Benami" is of common usage especially in the rural parts to signify the immoral transfer of lands in the names of faithful servants, and close relatives and the worst of Benami is the cheat in the name of religious and public charitable trusts endowing large extent of lands.

There are hundreds of acres in the name of educational trusts but nowhere any trace of educational activities, similarly lands in the name of Choultries and Annadhanas Trusts but nowhere any form of Choultry functioning or Annadhanas offered, all cheat in the name of high sounding noble purposes. Where is the necessity of Choultries and Annadhanas; if the Tiller of the land is given the right of cultivation and enjoyment. A society of economic injustices and exploitation abounds with such enslaving and spoon feeding institutions of charity. Herewith a sample survey of Trusts in some villages of East Thanjavur. Thus the history of Land Ceiling Acts in the country has been a hoax of deception and failure.

Tamil Nadu was the premier State to bring Benami Abolition Act in 1982 passed by an overwhelming majority in the State Assembly. But the powerful vested interests vetoed the Act when the Bill was sent for the President's assent. Again in spite of the Law Commission categorical recommendation for the abolition of Benami transactions, a Benami (Prohibition of Right to Recover Property) Ordinance confirming ownership to the benamidars was promulgated on May 19th of 1988.

Again the powerful influence of feudalistic class has connived the promulgation of Ordinance to its own benefit. The Benami Ordinance giving legal sanction to the Benami transactions ultimately benefit only the landowners. It is a well-known fact that the benamidars neither the servants nor the close relatives will ever claim the right of ownership and the status quo will continue, nullifying the Ordinance.

Sarvodaya Movement has appealed to the President of India that the Government should take the responsibility to publish the list of benamidars in every state and confirm ownership only to the landless who are below the poverty line and the other benami lands should be taken over by the Government for distribution to the landless.

Sarvodaya has also requested that all the Trust lands should be taken over for distribution to the landless. Hope the Government will provide the necessary legal sanction to this effect while the Ordinance will be placed before the Parliament for approval during the ensuing winter session. But those who are in the helm of affairs of the Government are of the view that only Voluntary Organisations such as Sarvodaya Movement can educate and organise the benamidars to claim their rights over the land.

Corruption and Benami transactions are the two evils strangling the country to moral degradation and economic chaos. A National Upheaval, organising People's Morchas against corruption of official bureaucracy in the block, taluk and district offices and people's non-violent occupation of all benami lands in the name of individuals and trusts will vitalise the Nation, with the raise of the people's power. All the political parties are after capturing power and counting on votes. But a People's Movement against the official corruption and Benami holdings of the vested interests is the crying need of the hour which will surely purify the polity of the country.

S. Jagannathan
Sarvodaya Movement

Benami Transactions - A Continuum Back

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