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New Rs 1000 crore Odisha project "ignores" tribal rights over forest resources: NGO represents to Modi minister

By Our Representative
The Odisha government’s new Banayana project, which seeks to hand over a whopping Rs 1,000 crore Japan-funded biodiversity project to the state-sponsored Forest Security Committees (Vana Suraksha Samitis or VSSs), has come under heavy criticism for seeking to ignore gram panchayats’ rights over managing forests and their produce.
Launched by Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik lask week for “sustainable management of forest and bio-diversity”, the project is proposed to be implemented in 14 forest and wildlife divisions of the state, covering 10 districts, with the active participation of 12,000 VSSs over a period of 10 years.
While Patnaik has said, the project “envisages sustainable management of forest and bio-diversity along with adoption of best available technology and practices,” forest rights activists in Odisha believe, the while idea is to ignore gram sabhas’ rights, given under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act, 1996, and the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, which allow complete control over forests and their resources to the tribals living in the villages.
The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, which played a pivotal role in the struggle for the enactment of Forest Rights Act, 2006, has said in a statement that Banayana project is “anti-tribal and anti-FRA in the State”, and is the brainchild of the forest bureaucracy, which found its rights were taken away by PESA, 1996 and FRA, 2006.
In an effort to undermine the  Banayana project, CSD met Jual Oram, tribal minister under the Modi government, at his residence in Bhubaneswar on April 30, asking his support for "dissolving VSSs and handing over the management rights of Japanese loan to gram sabhas." CSD also handed over a petition pointing towards how gram sabhas were being ignored by the Odisha chief minister, currently facing stiff opposition from the BJP in the state. 
The Odisha government’s decision to launch the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-funded project, allegedly ignoring gram sabhas, has come close on the heels of a top tribal rights activist Prafulla Samantara awarded Green Nobel – Goldman Environmental Prize – for his successful legal fight against UK-based MNC Vedanta, which had sought to implement a bauxite-mining project in the forest areas without gram sabhas’ approval. 
CSD has demanded the entire amount, Rs 1,000 crore, obtainable from JICA, should be routed through the Gram Sabha and its executive committee, formed or to be formed under Section 4(1)(e) of Forest Rights Rules, 2007, wondering why the Odisha government was burdening the state with such a huge loan by allowing forest management rights to VSSs.
Seeking dissolution of all 12,000 VSSs, CSD said, if this is not done, tribals are well within their rights under the two acts – PESA, 1996 and FRA, 2006 – to dissolve them though their “gram sabha sarkars”. “While VSSs have been formed in the name of gram sabhas, in reality, they are being controlled by forest bureaucracy”, it adds.

Comments

Unknown said…
Height of politics,are they aware about such acts do exists or just vehement denial of constitutional rights of tribals still a habit of government!??

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