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Stopgap relief "unacceptable": Odisha tribal rally seeks cancellation of Feb 13 SC order

By Our Representative
Thousands of tribals and forest dwellers under the banner of Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, marched in a protest rally in Bhubaneswar demanding dismissal of the February 13 Supreme Court (SC) eviction order from forest land. It was started from Master Canteen at 11.00 am. with slogans “BJP Sarkar Jawab Do!”, “BJD Sarkar hosh me Aao!" ‘Gram Sabha sarkar Zindabad!, “Supreme Court ra February 13 adivasi birodhi Adesh ku radd karo”, “Abedan hoithiba samasta jungle jami ku verification karo”, etc.
In the protest rally, more than 7,000 tribals and forest dwellers from different districts participated and marched in the state capital followed by a public meeting at Lower PMG where representatives of different Sangathans affiliated to the CSD put forth their demands.
The CSD, Odisha, protest rally targeted both the BJP government at the Centre and BJD government in the state for violating the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, and for their anti-tribals and forest dwellers attitude.
Gopinath Majhi, state convenor of the CSD, Odisha, said, “Today's protest rally is being organised to show the discontent and anger amongst the tribal and forest dwellers of the state on the February 13 Supreme Court’s eviction order which is the result of the lackadaisical attitude of Central government which failed to properly defend the FRA in the Supreme Court.”
“We do not want temporary relief of February 28 Supreme Court stay order and we want complete dismissal of the February 13 order", he said.
Targeting the BJP governemnt at the Centre, CSD, in a communiqué following the rally, said, "From the beginning of coming into the power, the BJP government at the Centre is working against the historic Forest Rights Act, 2006. It brought anti-FRA, anti-tribals and forest dwellers Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) fund Act, 2016, Anti-FRA-National Forest Policy, 2018 and has diverted 20,000 hectares of forest land for no-forest uses during 2015-18 bypassing the gram sabha. Now the 13th Feb 2019 Supreme Court eviction Order is an anti-tribals and forest dwellers is because of the failure on the part of the Central government to defend the FRA in the court.”
Giving clarification of the implication of the February 13 eviction order in the state, CSD said, “Since most of the 4,22,384 individual forest rights (IFR) titles said to have been issued in the state are issued in a haphazard manner without ground verification leading to less area and partial recognition, along with the 1,45, 567 rejected IFR claimants, all the titles holders will also be evicted from forest land."
It added, "Besides, when eviction will start, it will also evict those who despite their occupation over forest land for generations and have failed to file their IFR claims till date. Thus if the February 13 order is implemented in the State there will be mass eviction of lakhs of tribal and forest dwellers in the state.”
Targeting the BJD government in the state, CSD said, "While the Odisha government claims to be No 1 in the country in issuing highest number of IFR titles, in reality it has done a big mess of FRA implementation in the state. It has used the Recognition Act as land distribution scheme and has bypassed the gram sabha in the whole FRA implementation process.”
“No IFR claimants have been informed on the rejection of its claim, depriving lakhs of IFR claimants in filing appeal at the appropriate level; government officials at the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SDLC) have arbitrarily rejected IFR claims of STs and OTFDs and have put all blame upon the gram sabhas in the state", it said.
"OTFDs have denied to file their IFR claims in many districts and most of the IFR titles have been issued without ground verification. While 40, 000 villages are eligible to get community rights over forest, there is very poor recognition of community rights in the State,” CSD added.
“We demand let all the so-called rejected, approved and pending IFR claims to be sent back to the concerned Gram Sabhas for reconsideration and appropriate action as per Rule-12A(6) FRA Rules-2012,” CSD insisted.
“Forest Rights Act, 2006 authorizes gram sabha as the authority of all the common property resources including forest and thus gram sabha is the real authority to decide on what would be done with those land and it is not the state government nor the Central government nor the Supreme Court to decide on it,” it added.
***
At the end of the protest Rally, CSD submitted memorandum to the Governor of Odisha, the Chief Minister of Odisha and to the President of India through the Governor, putting forth the 12 points demands:
  • Dismiss the anti-tribal and anti-forest dwellers Supreme Court Order dated February 13, 2019.
  • Scrap Anti- FRA CAMPA Fund Act-2016 and National Forest Policy, 2018.
  • Bring amendments in all acts and rules like Biodiversities Act, 2002, Wildlife Protection Act-1972, Forest Conservation Act-1980, Indian Forest Act, 1927, Coal Bearing Act, 1957 and all forest policy related to Minor Forest Produces etc. which have been main hindrance in the implementation of FRA, 2006.
  • No diversion of forest land for non-forest activities without proposal and recognition of Gram Sabhas.
Demands before the state government:
  • Send back all so-called rejected, approved and pending IFR claims to the concerned Gram Sabhas, the real authority for reconsideration and appropriate action as per Rule-12A(6) FRA Rules-2012.
  • Stop correction of ROR of forest lands issued without demarcation.
  • Stringent action must be taken against government officials who have discouraged and deprived Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) to file their IFR in different districts, arbitrarily documentary evidence have been prioritised and oral evidence of elders bypassed, 629 issued IFR titles have been cancelled in Sundargarh district. 
  • Recognise the community forest rights over forest resources as per 3(1)(i) of FRA-2006 & respect the Forest Protection Management Committee formed under Sec-4(e) of FRA Rules-2007 and dissolve V.S.S form under JFM.
  • Identify all forest/un-surveyed villages falling in reserve forest area and convert them into revenue villages.
  • Withdraw all forest offence cases filed against tribal and forest dwellers using different sections of Indian Forest Act, 1927, FCA, 1980 and WLP Act, 1972 before and after FRA- 2006.
  • 70% quorum should be a must for the Gram Sabha, it should have no representation of government official in any executive body of the Gram Sabha, and funds should directly flow to the Gram Sabhas. 
  • CSD should be informed of what actions have been taken based under the direction of the Governor of Odisha (Vide Reference Number-CN/47/2018, Memo No- 5679SG/Dated 6.10.18) to the Chief Secretary of Odisha on the memorandum submitted by CSD, Odisha dated 28th September, 2018.

Comments

Anonymous said…
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I like all the points you made.

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