Eviction threat “looms large” over Odisha tribals’ 1.45 lakh forest land rights claims

Counterview.net | May 20, 2019

A workshop organized jointly by the Mayurbhanj Adivasi Bikash Manch (MABM) and the Mayurbhaj Jala, Jungle, Jamin and Jana Adhikar Manch (MJJJJAM) on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the Panchati Raj Extension to Scheduled Area (PESA) Act has been told that a total of 1,45,750 individual forest rights (IFR) claims out of 6,17,935 filed at the gram sabha level in Odisha have been rejected and are under “serious threat” after the February 13 Supreme Court (SC) eviction order.

Speaking at the seminar, Dr Manohar Chauhan of the civil rights organization, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, said, “As per the nodal Scheduled Caste-Scheduled Tribe (STSC) Development Department, Government of Odisha by March 31, 2019 in total 6,17,935 (5,86,245 of STs and 31,690 of other traditional forest dwellers or OTFDs) IFR claims have been filed in the state at the gram sabha level. and 4,30,212 IFR titles ( 4,30,139 561 to STs and only 73 to OTFDs) have been issued over 2,60,028,752 hectares (ha) of forest land.”

He added, “Likewise, by March 31, 2019, 13,826 community forest rights (CFR) claims have been filed at the gram sabha level and 6,564 CFR titles have been issued over 95,185 ha of forest land. It is also reported that in total 1,45,750 IFR claims (1,18,316 of STs and 27434 of OTFDs) have been rejected in the state, which are under serious threat after February 13 Supreme Court (SC) eviction order”.

Participated by 60 representatives from several Odisha district, Tulasi Munda, a padma shree awardee, who inaugurated, the seminar said that there is a need to bring about awareness on FRA and PESA in all the villages. She called upon all the gram sabhas to take over common property resources under their control and to resolve all conflicts and issues in the village itself so that no one would go to the jail.

Chauhan said, “While the Government of Odisha claiming to be No 1 in issuing highest number of IFR titles in the country, in most of the cases IFR titles have been issued without demarcation and are full of errors. Many IFR claims have been missed at the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) level and are not reported, SDLC and District Level Committee (DLC) have bypassed the rights authority of the gram sabha and IFR claims of OTFDs have been ignored, recognition of community forests rights have been badly affected by the interference of the Forest Department.”
Ramgalal Jamuda, former chairperson of the Odisha State Food Commission, raised concern over the February 13 Supreme Court eviction order, saying, IFR claims have been rejected across the country, adding, both the Central government and States governments to should strongly defend the FRA in the Supreme Court.

Sharing his field visit experience on FRA as chairman of the Food Commission, he said , “There are many discrepancies in the FRA data being produced by FRA DLCs and the State Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC), and there is an urgent need to demarcate all the forest land issued under FRA followed by Records of Rights (ROR) correction and extension of developmental programmes to the IFR title holders.”

Tushar Dash, member, Community Forest Rights Learning and Advocacy (CFRLA), shared on the process of enactment of the FRA in 2006, different rights recognized under the Act and on the forest rights recognition process. He also pointed out on the various threats to FRA under the BJP-led government at the Centre, especially from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, the Indian Forest Policy, 2018, and the proposed amendments in Indian Forest Act, 2019, which he said are contradictory to and directly violate the FRA, 2006.

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