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THE NEWS

Odisha State Food Commission has written to all the district collectors of the state regarding the poor implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) and how it is endangering the food security of people.

CURRENT STATUS:

As per the norms laid down by the government, Individual Forest Rights (IFR) title holders are to be accorded the topmost priority in the matter of assistance under various rural housing schemes like Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana, Mo Kudia, Biju Pucca Ghar Yojana, etc., but the ground realities are really very discouraging.

Demarcation of Land:

  • Though certificates of titles have been distributed to 4,27,889 title holders, actual demarcation of land has been completed only in respect of 3,01,812 cases.
  • Demarcation of land is still pending for 1,26,079 cases and the bulk of them relate to five districts namely Keonjhar (37,266), Nabarangpur (26,747), Koraput (17,481), Sundargarh (9,1l0) and Kandhamal (6,189).
  • These five districts account for 96,793 pending cases representing 76.77 percent of the total pendency.

Welfare Schemes:

  • There is a huge gap in the convergence of FRA and welfare schemes in the state.
  • Out of 4,27,889 Individual Forest Rights (IFR) title holders, only 1,53,306 (35.83 percent) households have been assisted under various rural housing schemes.
  • The percentage of coverage is miniscule in districts like Bolangir (18.32%), Deogarh (22.36 %), Dhenkanal (28.99%), Jajpur (7.22%), Jharsuguda (20.04%), Mayurbhanj (9.27%), Nabarangpur (25.91 %), Nayagarh (22.90%), Sambalpur (27.65 %) and Sundargarh (21.55%).

SCHEDULED TRIBES AND OTHER TRADITIONAL FOREST DWELLERS (RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS) ACT, 2006:

  • It is an act to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in FDSTs and OTFDs who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded.
    • FDSTs: The forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs) are the members or community of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) who primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for livelihood needs and includes the Scheduled Tribe pastoralist communities.
    • OTFDs: The other traditional forest dweller (OTFDs) refers to any member or community who has for at least 3 generations prior to the 13th December 2005 primarily resided in and who depend on the forest or forests land for their livelihood needs.

THE “SOURCE” OF PROBLEMS:

  • Gram Sabha: The bulk of rejections are at the level of the Gram Sabha. The claimants under the FRA, 2006 have not received any written communication from the concerned Gram Panchayats as provided under Rule 12A(3) or Rule 12A(10) of the Forest Rights Amendment Rules, 2012.
  • SDLC & DLC: The situation may be more or less identical regarding the claims rejected by the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) or District Level Committee (DLC).

ROADBLOCKS TO RIGHTS:

  • Lack of political commitment
  • Lack of awareness & information
  • Lack of transparency
  • Lack of adequate human and financial resources with the department of tribal affairs
  • Unkind and irresponsible forest bureaucracy which influences the decision at various levels
  • Poor or non-functioning of district and sub-division level committees, which consider the claims filed by Gram Sabhas.

HOW A CLAIM IS MADE?

  • The State has raised concerns over the process of rejecting claims, creation of Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) and the status of convergence of welfare activities with FRA.
  • Under the Forest Rights Act, a claim for legal recognition of traditional rights on forest land is made at the Gram Sabha Level Committee (GSLC).
  • This claim, after scrutiny, goes to the SDLC and then finally to the DLC.
  • While a claim can be rejected at any of these three levels, an appeal can be made against the rejections by the GSLC and SDLC.

HOW REJECTION OF CLAIMS IMPACT?

here are nearly 200 million tribals and other traditional forest dwellers in India who derive their livelihoods mainly from forest resources. However, their customary rights over forest land have always been under threat.

  • Hunger: Needless to mention that all these aggrieved claimants are still struggling to achieve freedom from hunger. The families and society perpetually suffer from food insecurity, malnutrition.
  • Unemployment: Most of the tribal groups are daily wagers, with low literacy rate and income but with the current situation, the forest dwellers are struggling in finding jobs for them. There was a transition from their early occupation to the present occupation. This transition also imbalance the life of the tribes.
  • Impact on Health: Furthermore, the shift from agriculture or hunting-gathering to daily wagers was a severe shock for them. During this transition, the health of the tribes was highly affected.

LEARNING FROM THE WORLD:

  • Europe: In most countries in Europe, forests are largely owned and managed by individuals and local communities, which not only help in generating incomes for them but also in conserving and using forest resources in a sustainable manner.
  • Mexico: TMexico has handed over 70 percent of its forests to communities for management.
  • Vietnam: n Vietnam, close to 30 percent of the forests are managed by the local community.

CONCLUSION:

n the last few months, the Forest Rights Act has been discussed more than it has been in the last decade due to several reasons. Though the Act is very crucial for the forest communities mere recognition of rights is not sufficient for citizens to enhance their livelihood and wellbeing. Instead, recognition of rights and their actual realization requires the presence of a robust institutional arrangement with well-defined roles and responsibilities. This can be possible if state governments direct to integrate programs and schemes with forest rights title holders and extend possible support, including. The state governments need to build and strengthen the implementation capability of enforcement agencies.

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