Chhattisgarh govt begins process to grant FRA to Abujmarh tribals

Down To Earth | Eshan Kukreti | June 11, 2019

Government to grant habitat rights to Abujh Marias, a particularly vulnerable tribal group that reside in the forest, considered a bastion of Naxalism

The Chhattisgarh government is processing habitat rights for Abujh Marias, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG).

Apart from the tribals getting their dues as laid down by the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, this move by the Bhupesh Baghel government is significant otherwise. Abujhmarh, where this tribe lives, is considered by the government to be one of the last remaining strongholds of Left-wing extremism. 

The Abujhmarh forest is spread over 1,500 square miles in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

In the last week of May, Chief Minister Baghel had said that the PVTG group would be granted rights under the FRA. Addressing a workshop on FRA in Jagdalpur, the minister had said that the focus would be on granting community rights, rather than individual rights in the area.

“Since it is a PVTG community, they are entitled to the habitat rights under FRA,” a senior official of the Chhattisgarh tribal department told Down to Earth on the condition of anonymity.

The FRA has a provision that says, “In view of the differential vulnerability of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PTGs) among the forest dwellers, the District Level Committee should play a pro-active role in ensuring that all PTGs receive habitat rights in consultation with the concerned PTGs’ traditional institutions of these groups, after filing claims before the gram sabha”.

Habitat is defined under the act as, “the area comprising the customary habitat and such other habitats in reserved forests and protected forests of primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities and other forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.”

“To go about granting the titles under FRA, we’ll have to approach it differently from any other forest-dwelling community. As Abujh Marias have their own governance structure, the usual approach involving gram sabhas will not be possible. We’ll have to call a mahasabha and take up the issue of FRA there,” the official said, adding that all these preparations are currently underway to begin the process for granting habitat rights.