Nov 22, 2014

First consultation on Forest Rights Act in Raipur

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A one-day Consultation on the effective implementation of Forest Rights Act (2006) in Chhattisgarh highlights the importance of a synergy between the Gram Sabha, Forest Department and the Tribal Development Department. 

Though Chamru Ram of Aamgaon village, Sarguja district got the title deed for his two plots of land under the Forest Rights Act, he and his family were forcibly evicted by the Forest Department. Saying that the title deeds were of no use, the Forest department went ahead with plantation work on his land. Solely dependent on his land for his and his family’s livelihood, Chamru Ram now does not have any other means of income. 

Several such cases of ineffective and improper implementation of the Forest Rights Act in the state of Chhattisgarh were showcased in a one day consultation organised by Oxfam India on 3rd March ’13 in Raipur. The consultation which was in collaboration with the State Department of Tribal Development, tried to highlight the various lacuna in the current implementation of FRA and the situation of the adivasis and other forest dwelling tribes (OTFD) thereof. Many eminent guests and experts from the field were present at the event including Manoj Pingua, Principal Secretary (State TDD), Praveen Pardeshi, Principal Secretary, Forest (GoMaharashtra), Ashish Kothari (Kalpavriksh), Tushar Dash (Vasundhara), Dilip Gode (Vidarbha Nature Conservation Society), Dhirendra Sharma, PCCF (GoCG), Mohan Hirabhai Hiralal (Vrikshmitra) and Avinash Kumar, Director (Oxfam India). 

Highlighting the importance of effective implementation of FRA, known environmentalist Ashish Kothari said that all the aspects of the Act need to be understood clearly by all involved. For that both the community as well as the government officials need to be trained about the Act and the influence of the Forest Department needs to be minimised.     

Chhattisgarh has 44% of its geographical area under forest land and one third of its population is tribal. However, the implementation of the Forest Rights Act especially Community Forest Rights have been relatively ineffective especially in comparison to the other tribal majority belt of Odisha and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. FRA gives legal land rights to the tribals on which they have been traditionally living in and also enables them to manage and conserve the forests thus securing and strengthening their livelihood. In Chhattisgarh, while 238226 claims of Individual Forest Rights have been approved, only 775 claims of Community Forest Rights have been approved till date.    

Giving an overview of Maharashtra and the success in implementation of Community Forest Rights in Gadchiroli, Praveen Pardeshi said that there is need to give more priority to CFR and in Maharashtra, more area has been given under Community Forest Rights than Individual Forests Rights. The community through the Gram Sabha involves the Forest Department in managing and conserving the forests in order to have a continued and stable livelihood in future. He also insisted on the need to create an institutional structure to manage the CFR area and resources after getting the claim. 

This is the first consultation on Forest Rights Act in the state which involved the various state government departments, civil society and also the community. The consultation was successful in creating a platform for the community and the civil society to engage and interact with the various departments of the state government especially the Tribal Development Department and the Forest Department. Through sharing of success stories and challenges from other tribal states, the consultation paved the way for a more involved and effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act in Chhattisgarh in future.

Credit: Bipasha Majumder

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