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Tribal rights: Gujarat a poor performer, suggests Central govt document

By Rajiv Shah
A new Government of India document, in possession of Counterview, has suggested that Gujarat’s performance in providing land to the tribals under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, is one of the poorest in India. The document shows, as of December-end 2014, Gujarat, an early starter, was able to “dispose of” just 39.97 per cent, or 75,974 claims, out of the total 1,90,051 tribals who had applied for land title deeds or community rights. This is against the national average of a whopping 82.60 per cent (17,13,519 out of 39,59,0190).
The document, titled “Status report on implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 [for the period ending December 31, 2014”, was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat on January 16, 2015.
The most overzealous state for disposing of tribal plea for land is Maharashtra, which disposed of more claims than the number of applications it received (119.89 per cent). This was followed by Uttar Pradesh (99.39 per cent), Chhattisgarh (97.40 per cent), Rajasthan (96.97 per cent), Kerala (86.55 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (83.28 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (81.46 per cent), Odisha (80.34 per cent), Jharkhand (76.78 per cent), Karnataka (69.52 per cent), Bihar (57.06 per cent), Assam (56.06 per cent), and Himachal Pradesh (44.02 per cent).
Even as disposing of the applications, there are 38.10 per cent of Gujarat tribals’ pleas were okayed for handing over land title deeds or community rights. In all, Gujarat’s 1,90,051 tribals put up their claims, out of which 72,418 of them received land titles. This is lower than the all-India average – out of 39,59,019 claims in the country as a whole, in as many as 15,56,676 cases, or 39.31 per cent, land was either distributed to individual tribals, or community rights were given.
The states which perform better on this score than Gujarat are Kerala (65.53 per cent), Odisha (56.46 per cent), Rajasthan (48.93 per cent), Chhattisgarh (41.51 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (41.20 per cent), The gap between disposing of claims and title deeds and community rights actually ready for being handed over suggests, according to observers, poor rate to scrutiny of applications by the Gujarat officialdom, compared to most other Indian states.
This is clear from a further breakup. In Gujarat, out of 1,90,051 claims, 1,82,869 were for individual land titles, and 7,182 for community rights. Of these, in as many as 72,418 cases – 68,562 individual title deeds and 3,856 community rights were positive.
But what seems disconcerting is, in Gujarat, while the tribal gram sabhas – which are the primary decision making body clearing land titles – decided in favour of handing over land titles in most cases (1,86,495 out of 1,90,051), it is the higher level tribal and forest bureaucracy which came in the way of ensuring that the tribal rights. Of the 1,86,495 cases cleared by the gram sabhas for handing over land titles and community rights, the District Level Committee, which is responsible for a final nod, gave its nod to just 72,148 cases.
And yet, the note – prepared by the Modi government’s tribal affairs ministry – does not find any issues Gujarat. It merely say, “Members of Gujarat Tribal Advisory Council had raised concern over high rate of rejected claims and the matter was discussed in the meeting held on June 1, 2011, and it was decided to review all rejected claims at various level. Following the decision, Government of Gujarat created a special review cell on July 8, 2011 and circulated procedure to review all rejected claims. As a result, number of claims disposed of has been reduced considerably.”

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