Table 3. Estimated annual cost and social return on investment
Total annual cost Total cost in No. of No. of cases % of unresolved
to state in Rupees USD paralegals resolved cases resolved
Rs. 40,000,000 $ 880,000 400 48,000 7.5%
Rs. 80,000,000 $ 1,760,000 800 96,000 15.1%
Rs. 120,000,000 $ 2,640,000 1,200 144,000 22.6%
Rs. 160,000,000 $ 3,520,000 1,600 192,000 30.2%
Thus, if funding is provided for 1,600 paralegals annually, it would require just over three
years to resolve the estimated 636,594 land cases currently unresolved in the state.
II. Land rights CRP program in Odisha
In the state of Odisha, in eastern India, Landesa has worked for several years with the
state's Revenue Department (responsible for land administration) to develop an
innovative program in which village youth are recruited and trained to assist Revenue
officials in implementing a government program that provides title to rural households
that lack title to homestead land they currently occupy. Such youth are known as
"Community Resource Persons" or CRPs.
A. Vasundhara homestead plot regularization program
In 2005 the Government of Odisha launched the Vasundhara program as a policy
response to the high level of homesteadlessness documented by the Odisha Revenue
Department in 2004.10 The Revenue Department‘s study identified 249,334 households
in the state that were classified as homesteadless. When initially launched, the program
envisioned distributing up to four decimals (4/100 of an acre) of land to homesteadless
households. The distribution was subsequently increased to 10 decimals (1/10 acre) in
2007. The three-year program was later modified to be open-ended after the initial term
ended and more work remained to be done.
The Vasundhara program uses existing laws to distribute homestead land to
homesteadless households. Both the Odisha Government Land Settlement Act of 1962
(OGLS) and the Odisha Prevention of Land Encroachment Act of 1972 (OPLE) provide for
homestead land distribution and settlement on government land. Under the OGLS each
village shall demarcate land for homestead purposes, and the demarcated land may be
distributed to villagers having no homestead land. Similar provisions are made in the
OPLE for settlement of land by homesteadless households. The settlement procedure in
the OPLE provides that where any land is in the unauthorized possession of a landless
person, the Tahsildar (sub-district land administration official) may, instead of evicting
the person, settle the person‘s claim to the land. This settlement, however, is restricted to
one acre, of which only 10 decimals may be used for homestead purposes.
10Description of the Vasundhara program and discussion of CRPs draws from S. Patnaik and J. Miner, Issues
and challenges to homestead land and shelter rights in Odisha, unpublished mimeograph.
Landesa undertook two studies to assess progress in implementing the Vasundhara
program. 11 The first study, a collaboration between Landesa and the Odisha Tribal
Empowerment and Livelihoods Program (OTELP),12 found the following problems:
1. The government's original estimate of homesteadless households omitted many
households. In 43 villages surveyed, 1,191 households—fully 40% of village
households—did not receive homestead land either under Vasundhara or any
other land allocation program. Homesteadless households include those whose
house is built on public land.
2. Although program guidelines authorize distribution of up to 10 decimals of
land, most officials have only distributed 4-decimal plots, even where there was
sufficient land available to allow grant of larger plots.
3. In the surveyed villages, 64% of Vasundhara beneficiaries are not in actual
possession of the land for which they received title, and about 20% of the land
distributed through the OGLS was not identified or demarcated on the ground,
making it practically impossible for beneficiaries to claim a specific plot of land as
4. Of those households that received title, only 33% received it through
regularization of land they already occupied, which means that 67% of the
beneficiaries would have to relocate their house to take possession of their
Vasundhara homestead plot. At the time of the survey, only 3% of these
beneficiaries had shifted to the new plots.
5. Although households who received a new homestead site under the OGLS
usually received a joint title in the name of both spouses, in cases where existing
plots were regularized under the OPLE, title was usually only given to the male
head of household.
Landesa conducted the second study with assistance from the Regional Centre for
Development Cooperation (RCDC), focusing on six districts—Puri, Balasore, Ganjam,
Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Sambalpur—which together represent the three Revenue
Divisions of Odisha.13 Study findings included the following:
1. Of 856 Vasundhara households interviewed in 45 villages, researchers found an
additional 1,572 households that should have been eligible for a plot under
11See Rural Development Institute, Report on Possession Status of Land Distributed Under Vasundhara
Scheme as well as Homestead Use of Forest Land Recognized Under The Forest Rights Act in Selected
OTELP Villages (RDI 2010); Rural Development Institute, Assessment Report on Status of Distribution and
Possession of Homestead Land in Odisha (RDI 2010) [hereinafter Assessment Report]. Landesa's work in
Odisha is funded by a multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.
12The Odisha Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) covers 30 of the most backward
blocks with tribal concentrations in seven districts, namely Gajapati, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Koraput,
Malkangiri, Nawarangpur and Rayagada in South-West Odisha. The program is being implemented in three
phases over 10 years. The purpose of the OTELP Program is to ensure that the livelihoods and food security
of poor tribal households are improved through promoting a more efficient, equitable, self-managed and
sustainable use of the natural resources at their disposal and through off-farm/non-farm enterprise
13See Assessment Report, supra note 11. Data from Balasore, Sambalpur and Ganjam present a picture of
Vasundhara‘s implementation in tribal areas, and data from Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur and Puri present a
picture of program implementation in Scheduled Caste communities of coastal Odisha.
Vasundhara, but which neither received land not had their existing landholding
2. Only 70% of the surveyed households received final title, and even within this
group the title was often for plots that had not been demarcated or for plots other
than the land on which the household was already living.
3. Fully 84% of the surveyed households (720 of 856 households) were not in
possession of land they purportedly received under the program, and only 7% (62
of 856) had received title for an existing housesite. This meant that households
would have to relocate to use their new land as a homestead, and often the land
was situated in a place without roads or other public services, making relocation
4. Although the Vasundhara program can distribute plots of 10 decimals, 79% of
beneficiary households received 4-decimal plots, and 18% received very small
plots measuring only 2 or 3 decimals.
The Government of Odisha responded to these studies with an invitation to Landesa to
discuss strategies for closing these gaps, with the aim of rectifying any missteps that had
denied Vasundhara households with access to usable homestead sites, and also to expand
the program to cover homesteadless households that had been inadvertently excluded
from the program.
B. Innovative use of CRPs
In considering what strategies the government might use to address gaps in the
Vasundhara program, Landesa continued discussions with the Odisha Department of
Revenue and leadership of the OTELP program. The meetings identified basic
approaches that could help to ensure that the revamped program would succeed. Among
these, the most important was the realization that because allocation of homestead plots
is a government function, it might be productive to supplement existing Revenue
Department resources, at least on a temporary basis.
Drawing upon experience of an earlier government program in Andhra Pradesh, Landesa
proposed the use of so-called "Community Resource Persons" (CRPs), which are hired
from the community and trained to assist Revenue Officers to complete a narrow set of
administrative tasks related to land titling. CRPs differ from full-fledged land rights
paralegals (of the type described earlier with respect to the SERP program) in that
whereas land rights paralegals receive training on a range of land rights issues and are
able to advise community members on how to resolve a range of land titling matters,
CRPs are competent with respect to perhaps a single land rights issue, and work with
government land administration officials to resolve that issue in a "campaign mode."
The inspiration for the CRP program in Odisha came from the SERP paralegal program in
AP and another smaller AP project that was implemented as a pilot in Nalgonda district of
AP during 2007 - 2008. In that pilot, CRPs were literate village youths (almost
exclusively young men in their late teens or early 20s) trained to assist Revenue officers in
identifying poor households that had purchased land during the past 20 years, but had
never registered their purchase and therefore did not have registered title for the land.
Such transactions are known as sada bai nama transactions, which translates as "plain