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Odisha tribals oppose government's "forced" plantation on forest land, "undermining" other forest dwellers' rights

By Our Representative
Hundreds of tribals and forest dwellers under the banner of Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD) marched in Bhubaneswar to protest against the Odisha government “violating” Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, in the state by forcing plantation over occupied forest lands in different districts, even as refusing in large numbers individual and community rights to tribal and non-tribal forest dwellers over forest land.
The protest rally started from Master Canteen and marched towards Lower PMG, where a public meeting was organised. The protesters gave slogans “Gram Sabha Sarkar Zindabad”, “Gosti Adhikar Aamar Dabi”, “Samasta Swikruti Praptya Jungle Jami Chinhata Kara”, “Ana Adibasira Byaktigat Jungle Adhikar Ku Mannyata Dia”, “Jungle Gaaonku Rajaswa Gaaon re Parinata Kara”, and so on.
Gopinath Majhi, CSD’s Odisha convenor, said, “The protest march has been organised to protest against the Forest Department for doing plantation over the occupied forest lands in different districts and for launching anti-FRA Ama Jungle Yojana, Banayana and Japan International Cooperative Agency (JICA) project. “
He added, “It has also been organised to counter chief minister Navin Patnaik, who is misguiding the forest dwellers by seeking amendment in FRA, failure to recognize community forest fights in the State, and the Odisha government not allowing six Gram Sabhas in Golamunda block of Kalahandi district to do independent business of tendu leaf.”
Pradeep Sahoo, senior CSD member, addressing the rally, said, “While the Odisha government is claiming to be No 1 state in the country, in the last eight years of FRA implementation, the state government has undermined the authority of the Gram Sabha Sarkar, haphazardly issuing individual forest rights (IFR) titles without identifying eligibility.”
Questioning a statement recently made by Patnaik, Sahoo said, “As per the FRA State-Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) report by April 30, 2017, 1,042 IFR claims of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) have been approved at district-level committee (DLC) level, and 628 OTFDs have issued IFR titles, including 555 in Sundargarh, 15 in Angul, 11 in Rayagarda and 47 in Malkangiri districts.”
“If OTFDs of these districts are eligible under FRA, 2006, how OTFDs living in other districts are ineligible?”, he wondered.
  Anna Kujur from Sundargarh criticized the government machinery saying, “Most of the community forest rights (CFR) claims filed by Gram Sabha are pending at the SDLCs for years in all districts, and it is disappointing that the state government is openly violating FRA by introducing anti-FRA schemes and programmes like Aama Jungle Yojana, Banayana and JICA project and promoting anti-FRA vana suraksha samitis (VSS).”
Hiralal Majhi of Nuapada district criticized the state forest department for forcible plantation on cultivable forest land and relocating tribals from sanctuaries, even as condemning the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for its circulars restricting FRA implementation in tiger reserves and demanding its immediate withdrawal.
Meanwhile, CSD has urged the state government to review all the 1,49,150 rejected IFR claims and pending cases, even as raising serious concern over forcing Gram Sabhas to allow divert forest land for non-forestry projects.
In a memorandum, it has asked the Governor of Odisha to direct the Government of India and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for speedy withdrawal of the March 28 NTCA “illegal” order and to take action against the officials responsible allowing eviction from sanctuaries against forest dwellers’ will. It insisted, those who have been evicted be relocated.

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