The main issues addressed by EFT are on issues of Forest Rights and Revenue land, which are its core strengths. Other issues of work by EFT are MGNREGA, Health and Education.
EFT is primarily working on the Rights of Dalits, SCs and STs who are downtrodden of the society. It is believed that the livelihood of landless and own no entitled land is based on the land and its entitlement. Looking at the situation of Dalits, SCs and STs in Madhya Pradesh, it concentrates its core strength of mass mobilization as one of the strategies to empower these communities so that they demand/ work to get their own entitlements. The situation before the project intervention, it was realized to work on their rights which has been neglected or exploited by the landlords and other departments. The Forest Rights act has been implemented in the field areas but the ground reality showed that the benefits are actually not reaching to the entitled persons. Forest Rights Act is one of the most important acts for the tribals as it is more close to their livelihood. So, to get their property rights, EFT started working with the community groups.
In the project area, the issue of local tribal and dalit community are related with land and livelihood rights. The crisis of land ownership enforced them for mass migration in recent past. Migration is not only a problem at the village level but also is one of the major problems at the towns/cities.
The land ownership pattern in these districts are very skewed like in Sehore, about 10.83% of tribal community owned less than 1% of total cultivable land; and majority of them forced to be landless. Similarly, in Betul the tribal population comprises 39.41% of the total population; but they own only 21% of the total cultivated land. In all cases, the situation of land ownership to women is even less than 2%. The main reason of this pattern is social dominance of power few in the society, and second lack of administrative and political interest in favor of marginalized community.
Land Rights in Forest Villages:-
According to Indian Forest Act (1927) the status of Forest Villages is specifically described as ‘Slaves of Forest Department’. In early 70s even after a Government Order (where government itself declared Forest Villages as an UN-CONSTITUTIONAL entity) about 111 forest villages exists in Betul and 35 in Sehore district. The resident of these villages (mostly tribal community and forest dweller) have no rights over land, forest and any common resources. At the same time, no infrastructural facilities can be made for the villages (because of the Forest Act, 1927). There is need to change the status of these villages in normal Revenue villages, so that the residents can get their land and livelihood rights.
Rights of Common Property Resources:-
According to Forest Rights Act (2005), the village community has right to submit their claims for the ownership of ‘Common Property Resources’. But, even after 2 years of this law, concerned department and officials are not very interested to start the process of regularization of common land & resources, since it has occupied mostly by powerful people in the society, and forest dwellers are still deprived from their due rights.
The average landlessness in Madhya Pradesh is estimated around 22%, where majority of them identified as dalit and tribal community. Interestingly, in every district a large chunk of fallow land is already available but landless people haven’t got their land rights. Like in Raisen 39%, Mandla 26%, and Betul 39% and in Sehore 26% fallow land can be converted as arable or common pool land for promotion of agro-forestry, but there is still lack of administrative and political will deprived the community at large.
Ekta Foundation is also working with the women of rural and marginalized community to empower and educate them by providing digital literacy to the women of rural areas has given them a chance to move out from their comfort zone which leads to them becoming more confident and independent. EFT also touches other social issues for instance right to education, right to information, health and hygiene.
Ekta Foundation is associating with youth, involving and preparing them for justice and peace through non- violent ways.