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Odisha tribals are not beneficiaries, they are forest rights holders: State govt told

By Our Representative
The Odisha state chapter of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), the national level forum of tribals and forest dwellers which struggled for the enactment of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, has raised serious concern over the use of the word “beneficiary” instead of “forest rights holder” by the scheduled caste (SC)-scheduled (ST) development, minority and backward classes welfare department, Government of Odisha on its website.
Questioning the word “beneficiary”, used by SC-ST department while uploading village- and district-wise list of individual forest rights (IFR) title holders, CSD asserted, “We are seriously hurt with this attitude of government officials/SC-ST department, which has been the nodal department for the FRA implementation in the state since 2008.”
“FRA is not like other anti-poverty schemes and programmes, and by using the ward “beneficiary, government officials are not only disrespected the forest rights holders but also undermining the forest rights recognized under the FRA”, it said in a statement.
CSD said, it is of the view that FRA, 2006 is a historic enactment passed by the Indian Parliament and is the result of consistent struggles of the tribal and forest dweller from the British period. In the preamble of the Act, the government has admitted to have done injustice with the forest dwelling tribals and other forest dwellers in pre- and post-independence period and FRA said to have enacted to undo that historical injustice done over the period.
The preamble reads: “The forest rights on ancestral lands and their habitat were not adequately recognized in the consolidation of State forests during the colonial period as well as in independent India resulting in historical injustice to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem”.
“We believe that by considering and mentioning the rights holder as ‘beneficiary’ the Government of Odisha is trying to repeat the injustice done with the forest dwellers and FRA which recognizes the pre-existing rights of the tribal and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs), and by recognizing these rights, Government of Odisha is not doing any charity”, CSD claimed.
CSD said, the Government of Odisha should know said that “while in the claim form-A for claiming IFR given in the Annexure-I, the word ‘claimant’ has been mentioned, and the ‘name(s) of holder(s) of forest rights’ has been mentioned in the IFR title format in annexure-II. Besides, Section 6 of the FRA recognizes the Gram Sabha as the authority of the village and village common resources including community Forest resources CFR.”
In a letter to the chief secretary, Government of Odisha, who is also the chairman of the FRA State level Monitoring Committee (SLMC), CSD said, it was a gross violation of FRA by the SC-ST Department and has requested him to immediately correct the mistake. “Otherwise we will be bound to take next course of action against it and will write to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission on Scheduled Tribes (NCST), the state High Courd etc.”, the letter warned.
CSD also drew the attention of the chief secretary to look into the comments/orders made by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India and the Odisha State Food Commission (OSFC) after review of FRA implementation in the state, urging his office to expedite community rights recognition process, review all rejected claims, including those of OTFDs, to demarcate whatever IFR titles which have been recognized under the Act till date and to do records of rights (RoR) correction in the state.
CSD further requested the chief secretary to upload village-wise details of IFR and community forest rights (CFR) titles in the SC-ST department website including number of claims filed and titles issued, the area recognized in all district, including Sundargrah and Kandhamal, which have been left out.

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