Skip to main content

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.
Adivasi people much before the modern laws came into existence have been practicing a sustainable ecofriendly agriculture since times immemorial. The Adivasi lexicon had no concept of private property. Their land holding system was known as communal land holding system, which was egalitarian, democratic and gender just.
The Adivasi folks have been coexisting with forests and wildlife for thousands of years in a mutually liberating symphony and harmony. Each side recognized the natural rights of each other without causing any harm to each other. The British colonial masters with the stroke of pen, declared them encroachers in their own habitats.
The post-Independent period was also not so rosy for the indigenous people of India. Our own post-colonial rulers further marginalized them by not only continuing the draconian colonial forest Act. But also enacting a plethora of anti Adivasi laws like Wild Life Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act etc.
The destructive development path perused by the successive post-Independence governments has push them further into the brink of disaster. Scores of Adivasi mass movements have been protesting against the various Acts of dispossession by mega dams, industrial projects, mining projects, real estate projects, national parks and sanctuaries.
After years of tough and protracted struggle the Adivasi mass movements ultimately forced the Government of India to enact the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in 2006. In spite of this the forest bureaucracy, the corporate sector and various other vested Interest have been resisting to handover the title deeds of Forest land.
The sheer apathy and hostility of the forest departments of various state governments can be gauged from the fact that out of 22,87,225 claims received from Scheduled Tribe (ST) applicants, 6,60,388 claims were rejected. Then out of 6,84,485 claims received from other traditional forest dwellers 4,44,493 claims were rejected. In Karnataka total of 2, 27,014 claims were filled under FRA, from this 35,521 claims of Adivasis and 1,41,019 claims of other forest dwellers were rejected.
The final blow came that when Supreme Court on a spurious writ petition filed by irresponsible anti- Adivasi conservative NGO Wild Life First passed an unjust and arbitrary order for summary eviction of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims have been rejected at various stages of processing.
It is a great tragedy that the Supreme Court instead of upholding the spirit of FRA went against it. We want to clearly state the fallacy of the rejection of FRA claims in the various stages of government departments. FRA clearly says that the Grama Sabha is supreme in deciding the claims under FRA. The clause 12-A of forest rights rules stipulate among other things the following:
  • Claims approved by Grama Sabha have to be sent back to it in case of objection by Government agencies and other.
  • In case of modification or rejection of a claim by the Grama Sabha as well as sub-divisional level committee the claimants have to be informed and given sufficient time to appeal against the proposed modifications and rejection. 
  • The sub-divisional and district committee could not take any decision on objection to any claims without hearing the claimants. 
  • No petition of the aggrieved person shall be disposed of without giving her/his a reasonable opportunity to present anything in support of claim. 
  • In cases where the resolution passed by the Grama Sabha recommending a claim is upheld by the sub- divisional level committee with or without modifications, but turned down by the district level committee, the district level committee shall record detailed reasons for not accepting the recommendation of Grama Sabha of sub-divisional level committee in writing a copy of the order of District level committee along with the reasons shall be made available to claimants or the Grama sabha or the community. 
  • Rule 12-A also clearly states that no committee (except the Grama Sabha or the forest rights committee) at the block or panchayat or forest beat or range level or any individual officer of any rank shall be empowered to receive claims or reject, modify or decide any claims on forest rights. 
The above provisions clearly indicates that none of the state governments have followed the genuine process of FRA, and also the Supreme Court has passed an extremely unjust and arbitrary order on February 13, 2019 to evict Adivasis and other forest dwellers.
All the adivasi mass movements, civil society organizations, political parties and other progressive and democratic Forces should come together and force the Government of India to pass an ordinance to nullify this unjust Supreme Court order.
---
*National Convener, National Adivasi Alliance, President, Budakattu Krishikara Sangha
Written as an appeal ahead of a meeting convened to discuss the issue at SCM House Bangalore, at 9.30 am on March 26

Comments

TRENDING

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…