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

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

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.

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.