The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) has sent notices to the district revenue officers (DROs) in Tamil Nadu, asking them to specify details, including extent of ‘panchami lands’, encroachments and the steps taken to remove them, the commission’s vice-chairman, L Murugan said, on October 15, 2018. ‘Panchami lands’ denote land assigned to Dalits in Tamil Nadu by the British Indian government during the late 19th century.
Although panchami lands were assigned, on the condition that it cannot be alienated to non-Scheduled Castes, these also came into the hands of people of other communities, with the passage of time. The NCSC has given the DROs 15 days’ time to respond, he said.
Last week, at a high-level review meeting, the Tamil Nadu government officials told the Commission that there are about 1.5 lakh acres of panchami lands in the state. However, there are also claims that there are about 12 lakh acres of panchami lands in the state, Murugan said. On the exact extent of panchami lands, he said there were huge discrepancies, which are being studied. “A committee of the state government is also looking into identification of panchami lands in Tamil Nadu, following a high court direction,” he noted.
Besides the state government’s initiative, the Commission has also held review meetings in some districts, focusing on aspects of panchami lands, like its extent and encroachments and steps to remove it, he said. DROs were asked to specify information since they are the custodians of such lands.
Explaining the Commission’s efforts to retrieve panchami land, he said Salem district authorities appeared before the panel at Delhi last week, over the removal of encroachments of about nine acres. They said notices had been issued to the encroachers to vacate and follow-up action was being taken, to ensure that the encroachments were removed, he said. In Coimbatore, 60 acres has been retrieved and given to the Dalits, who are now engaged in farming, Murugan said.