Daughters coaxed away from land rights

Late

Told to sign papers relinquishing right on land prior to marriage; unethical but within the legal framework, say lawyers.

A recent trend in parts of Pune district is threatening to undo the Maharashtra government's pioneering effort taken two decades ago to ensure daughters get land-inheritance rights. Lawyers and government servants have reported families of large landholders getting girls to sign a legal declaration prior to marriage renouncing their claim on inherited land, to prevent her or her children from claiming a share.

In 1994, the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar had enacted changes in the succession laws to give equal rights to daughters on property. The amendments also enabled children of a married daughter to claim their mother's inheritance share. It was part of the Women's Policy of the government, and it was replicated by the Centre only in 2001.

The trends noticed by lawyers, women's rights activists and government officers have thwarted the spirit of the reform. They reveal that many families with large landholdings are taking legal methods to rob women of their lawful inheritance. In order to pre-empt any effort by daughters from demanding a share in the land, families are getting them to sign legal declarations relinquishing rights to her father's land before marriage. Such documents even include a declaration that her children would not make any claim after their mother's death.

With land prices in and around Pune skyrocketing, the trend, in particular, is prevalent in talukas of Haveli, Mulshi, Maval and Khed, where land has become very precious of late.

Interestingly, children of women who have signed such documents are making efforts to regain their rights. Senior revenue officers of these tehsils confirm getting almost five to six requests, on a daily basis, from applicants seeking inclusion of their names in the 7/12 land records of their maternal grandfathers.

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