Centre talks tough, asks states to settle forest rights now

Issues a fresh guideline for settling rights, seeks early compliance

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | July 13, 2012



Unhappy at the non-implementation of forest rights even four years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006 came into force, the central government has sent a strong letter to all state governments to comply with the law and report back at the earliest.

The letter, issued on July 12 by the tribal affairs ministry, reminds that the forest rights law was enacted “with the objective of remedying the historical injustice” to the forest dwellers but after more than four years, it has been found that “the flow of intended benefits….remains constrained”.

The ministry has flagged problems created in not enforcing the law – (a) conveying Gram Sabha meetings only at panchayat levels, excluding smaller habitations (b) “non-recognition of un-hindered absolute rights over the minor forest produce (MFP)” (c) imposition of restrictions like transit permit, levy of fees, charges, royalties in violation of the law (d) continuation of the forest department’s monopoly over high value MFP like tendu leaves (e) non-recognition of nistar rights (for community use), conversion of all forest villages, old habitations, un-surveyed villages, whether recorded, notified or not, into revenue villages (f) non-recognition of community rights regarding protection, conservation and management of forest resources.

The letter takes strong objection to the fact that in many states forest dwellers are facing harassment, threat of eviction and forced relocation.

In some cases, rights are rejected by insisting on certain types of documents, which are not needed.

In order to address these issues, the ministry has issued a fresh and detailed guideline saying how to proceed in settling various rights the law grants, with a clear instruction that the ministry should be “apprised of the action taken for operationalising these guidelines at an early date”.

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