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

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.

NAPM extends support to Indian, Aussie citizen groups 'opposing' Adani ventures

#StopAdani action in Australia  Counterview Desk  The civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), extending solidarity to the global campaign by the Youth Action to Stop Adani (YAStA), held in recently in Australia and India, has said that the effort was to bring more attention to the struggle aboriginal, indigenous peoples, farmers, working class and other oppressed communities against allegedly anti-people multinational corporate conglomerates.