Skip to main content

Subverting MGNREGA, Odisha govt imposes commercial plantation on land allocated under Forest Rights Act

Kandhamal's Katitara village women collecting mahua
By Sanghamitra Dubey*
Sukanti Kanhar, president of a women's cooperative in Katitara village of Kandhamal, sounds nostalgic. She says, “When I came in this village after my marriage I used to go to forest with my mother-in-law to do cultivation in the uplands which used to grow 68 types of crops providing food sufficiency throughout the year.”
Over a period of time the upland cultivation (Podu) has been forcibly stopped by the forest department as being destructive to forests, forcing Sukanti Kanhar and her community to seek wage labour. The uplands used for Podu have been converted into plantation of teak and eucalyptus by the forest department, destroying an entire food habitat of the Kondh community.
In another tribal village, Madikhol, where the tribals have got titles on five acres of land under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, hybrid mangoes have been planted by cutting down mahua trees, which traditionally have been an important source of income for the tribals.
These plantations on cultivation lands of tribals have been carried out by the forest department, using funds from Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which, like FRA, is meant to be an emancipatory legislation.
As per the green India mission guidelines, 15% of MGNREGA fund is made available to the forest department for afforestation programmes.
In Paikpada village of Kandhamal, teak and acasia trees are being planted on lands of Kutia Kondhs, which is what is termed as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). This group has claimed land under FRA.
Villagers complain, the forest department has even hired outside labourers from far off places like Koraput to do plantation work, as Kutia Kondhs have opposed plantation on their land.
Regrettably, the Odisha government is implementing a host of programmes and special plans for the development of tribals and PVTGs, such as the conservation-cum-development plan OPELIP (Odisha PVTG Empowerment and Livelihood Improvement Programme).
Contrary to the core objective, massive monoculture and commercial plantations (teak, eucalyptus, rubber, coffee etc.) are taking place, destroying the food habitat and local ecology.
The PVTG community of Keonjhar (Juang), Kandhamal (Kutia Kondh), Sudergarh (Paudi Bhuyan), all are facing a similar repression of plantation.
The threat of forcible plantation has been intensified after the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAMPA), 2016, was passed by Parliament. Under the Act, the Government of India has released a whopping Rs 42,000 crore to forest departments across the country for carrying out afforestation and plantation programmes without having any safeguard to protect land and forest rights of tribals/local communities and without any provision for getting consent of the gram sabhas.
All this is happening in 2016, which marks the 10th anniversary of both FRA and MGNREGA. Both FRA and MGNREGA are meant to advance the cause of the most marginalized sections of Indian society. However, the stark reality is that the revolutionary intent of such legislations is being subverted by the powerful forest bureaucracy on ground to cause distress and misery of the same people.
This calls for a sincere effort by citizens’ collectives to persuade the government to reinforce the core commitment of the laws and to check subversion of laws by bureaucracy.
---
*With Vasundhara, a research and policy advocacy group that works on environment conservation and sustainable livelihood

Comments

The author's views are correct. In the name of modernisation and re-plantation, forest lands are being made out of bounds of poor and marginalised tribals.
Unknown said…
Excellent

TRENDING

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Opposition refuses to legally challenge EVMs amidst plans of "back to ballot" protest

Counterview Desk
Even as opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly to rig polls is growing, a group of prominent citizens who have come together to form the EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan has controversially called for a national protest against EVMs on May 30, demanding future elections should be held only on ballot paper.

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.

It's now official: Akshay Kumar has not been conferred honorary Canadian citizenship

By Our Representative
It is now official. Super-star Akshay Kumar has not been conferred any honorary citizenship by Canadian authorities, as claimed by him ahead of the 2019 elections. In reply to a query by Roshan Shah, who is a Canadian citizen living in Waterloo, Ontario, and belongs to Ahmedabad, the country’s authorities dealing with issues related with immigration, refugees and citizenship in Canada have said that only six persons have so far been granted honorary citizenship.

If EC's credibility is under question, shouldn't one "assume" EVMs might be tampered?

Counterview Desk
Gauhar Raza, scientist, documentary film maker and poet; senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); military veteran Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury (retd); and Sucheta De and Sandeep Saurav of the All India Students' Association (AISA), have asked “individuals, organisations and people's movements” to send their endorsement to an appeal they have prepared on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Govt of India overestimated GDP by 2.5%, must restore reputational damage: Ex-CEA

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Arvind Subramanian has said that changes brought about by the Government of India in data sources and methodology for estimating the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 “has led to a significant overestimation of growth”. While official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent, the actual growth may have been 4½ percent, ranging from 3 ½ to 5 ½ percent during the period, he adds.

Will minorities in India be 2nd class citizens? Wake up call: Be a 'communicating' Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
India today is at a defining moment of her history. There is so much that has taken place in the past five years (and particularly in the last ten days)- that several citizens of the country are genuinely concerned about the future of the country! Will democracy survive? Will key elements of the Constitution be changed?