Skip to main content

FRA: Gujarat government behaves irresponsibly and with high-handedness, arbitrariness

By Paulomee Mistry* and Hemant Shah**
The 21 March 2018 reply given by Ganpat Vasawa, tribal development minister, on Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2016, regarding cultivation rights given to tribals in the Gujarat Assembly is full of incorrect facts and half-truths. He gave misleading information on actual status of forest land entitlement. The implementation of the FRA in Gujarat is very pathetic and the state government behaves irresponsibly and with high-handedness and arbitrarily.
The actual situation in implementing this law in Gujarat is as follows:
Official information shows that, as on 30 November 2017, 1,82,869 individual claims were filed. Only 81,178 of these claims have been approved.
Tribal farmers have been given authority letters for 1,27,068.32 acres of land. This is 1.57 acres of land per forest land cultivator. Under FRA, tribal farmers have the right to claim upmto 10 acres.w But in reality, the Government of Gujarat gave them very less land, about one-tenth of their claims for land entitlement. In 99 per cent of cases, this has happened.
The Gujarat government has given the "right to ownership" documents to forest land cultivators, but such documents do not have any legal value. Instead of a land rights document, ownership by entitlement of land should be given. This is the most serious issue and it is necessary that immediate action is taken in this respect.
The website of the Government of India's Ministry of Tribal Affairs showed on 11 January 2016 that 7,224 community claims were filed in Gujarat, and out of these 4,597 claims were approved. However, fresh information provided on 30 November 2017 shows that 7,224 community claims were filed, and of these, 3,516 were approved. It means that the Government of Gujarat has revoked 1,081 community claims.
Community claims are not being allowed because the forest department does not want to allow forest land to go out of its control. If a community claim is approved, all land in the village would be owned by the village community. The ownership of all the resources in that village would also be owned by the village community. Hence, the forest department is not interested in providing community rights.
According to the information given on 30 November 2017, in the case of individual claims, the State of Gujarat is behind other several other states in respect to allotting land to the tribals. It includes Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura. Even in the matter of land allotment under community claims, Gujarat is behind other states, not exluding Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
In Gujarat, a major issue has been that, after FRA began being implemented in 2006, many farmers were forced to leave land possessed by them and, instead, plantations were done on their land by forest department officials. Such land should be verified by concerned officials and ownership of such land should be returned to the forest land cultivators.
Another issue is that, while forest land cultivators may be having all the evidence required for the possession of forest land, still, the subdivision office takes the opinion of zonal forest department officials and rejects the claim applications. Such officers should be transferred or strict action should be taken against them.
According to provisions of FRA, if the claimant is in possession of land for residing or cultivation before 13 December 2005, and has the possession of land till 31 December 2007, such claimants should be given entitlement as soon as possible. And yet, such claimants are rejected under various pretexts. For instance, the claims of those who are pensioners is rejected. This should be stopped immediately.
Things are particularly bad in non-tribal talukas such as Modasa, Himmatnagar, Idar, Vadali and Malpur, where there is very little implementation of FRA. In such talukas gram sabhas should immediately form FRCs and claims should be invited.
In Sabarkantha's Khedbrahma and Vijaynagar talukas, forest department officials are found to be intimidating tribals by forcibly doing plantation on forest land even when there is standing crop, ready to be harvested. The government should take strict action against them. Things are particularly bad in Dholvani, Itvadia and Khervada villages. In Idar and Vadali talukas, no FRCs have been formed in villages. In such villages FRCs should be formed. In Poshina taluka, FRCs have not verified any land. In such cases claimed land should be verified.
The approved claims for applications in the form of cultivation rights documents do not have any signature or seal of concerned authorities. Many FRCs and subdivision officials have lost claim applications filed before them, hence verifications have not taken place. In such cases fresh forms should be filled up immediately.
In seven talukas of Dahod district, a total of 20,150 tribal farmers have put forward their claims, but only 3,162 have got cultivation rights.Rest of the 16,988 have not yet got cultivation rights.
In gross violation of FRA, the Dahod district subdivisional office does not consider the provision of two records and an elderly person’s statement and visual evidence to be taken into consideration for accepting the claims. This has led to massive rejection of majority of claims.
In Panchmahal district, on 31 December 2013, then Chief minister Narendra Modi gave away cultivation rights to 2,596 tribal farmers out of 9,939. Rest of the 7,343 farmers have been left out. While approving applications, only receipts given by the forest department are considered as proof. According to the law, elders' statement or panchanama should also be considered for verification, which seldom happens. Farmers have the right to possess land and have house as well where they can plant trees. Yet, their cultivation rights are rejected. Worse, often farmers are forced to pay up fines for cultivating on their land, as they have still not been given entitlements.
---
*Director, Ekalavya Sangathan, **Economist with the Gujarat University

Comments

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.

Did Modi own, buy digital camera costing Rs 7 lakh in 1987-88, also used email?

Counterview Desk
In an interview to the news channel News Nation, aired on Saturday last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that he had approved the air strike despite bad weather because he felt the clouds would hide Indian planes from Pakistani radar is known to have become a laughing stock across India.

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.

When a neo-nationalist "invaded" hijab clad ladies, Bengali looking scholar in Delhi metro

By Aditi Kundu*
Travelling in Delhi metro on a daily basis to commute from Mayur Vihar to Dwarka, I see diverse people everyday. One can hear them talk about different aspects of life, from kitchen pilitics to national politics. On the morning of May 13, I witnessed a strange incident; disturbing and amusing at the same time.

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.

Women lost 88 lakh jobs in 2018: Why Modi "failed" to address their disempowerment?

Counterview Desk
Five human rights leaders Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of the Women March for Change have posed 56 questions (alluding to Modi’s claim of 56 inches chest) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP against the backdrop of his interview with a Bollywood star, which was allegedly masqueraded as a “non-political” conversation.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Disproportionately high death sentences against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims: UN told

Counterview Desk
In their joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee to meet for the listing of adoption of list of issues at its 126th session, July 1-26, 2019, top Dalit rights organizations have taken strong exception to, among other things, "disproportional application of death sentencing by the judiciary of minorities, such as Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis".

India's 80% construction sites "unsafe", deaths 20 times higher than those in Britain

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India may be seeking to project India’s construction sector as the country’s second-largest employer of the country after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 44 million people, and contributing nearly 9% to the national GDP, yet, ironically, its workforce is more unprotected than any other industrial sector of the country. Data suggest that the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely in the construction industry  than in a manufacturing industry, and the risk of a major injury is 2.5 times higher.

India sans Modi preferable, Congress worthier recipient of Indians’ votes: The Economist

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded and crucial commentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the electoral political battle is on, influential British weekly “The Economist”, has declared that “Indians, who are in the midst of voting in a fresh election, would be better off with a different leader”, even as pointing out that that under Modi, “India’s ruling party poses a threat to democracy.”