Skip to main content

Rejection rate over 50%: Gujarat govt 'fails to give' forest rights, jobs to rural poor

By Virsing Fatiya Babhor, Paulomee Mistry, Prof Hemantkumar Shah*

The implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 in Gujarat has been tardy. A total of 1,90,051 claims from 3,199 villages in 12 districts of the state have been filed individually and collectively for obtaining land ownership certificates under the Act. It consists of 1,82,869 individual claims and 7,182 community claims.
Of these, the state government has approved only 80,540 individual claims and 4,599 community claims. That means the state government has rejected 1,04,912 claims, about 56 per cent, and refused to grant land entitlement certificates to tribals and their communities who have lived there for decades.
We have also noticed that even for the claims that are accepted, the tribal farmers are given far less land than their claims. The land allocated is not equal to the land they have been cultivating.
Under FRA, receipts of fines imposed on tribal farmers by government officials for cultivating forest land is to be accepted as evidence of land ownership. Also, voter identity card, ration card, passport, building tax receipt, proof of residence, proof of check dams on agricultural land, hut etc. are also allowed as evidence. Yet, these are not taken into account.
Evidence from Panchmahals district suggests that not only these, but even the physical evidences like electricity and trees etc. are not taken into consideration in order to hand over the ownership of land.
People belonging to castes categorized under other backward class (OBC), known as Bakshi Panch in Gujarat, have given evidence of three generation of cultivating land. But their claims are rarely accepted.
On the other hand, in an effort to frustrate the forest dwellers’ claims over forest land, the state forest department forcibly plants trees on the lands of farmers whose claims have been denied and takes possession of the land.
In Virpur and Balasinor talukas the application forms submitted for the claims are not forwarded to the Forest Rights Committees for filing. The government authorities even reject claims approved by Gram Sabhas in their official meetings.

Implementation of MGNREGA

Quite like FRA implementation, in Gujarat, the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) too has been inadequate. As on March 14, 2022, this financial year, 46.27 lakh job cards were issued in Gujarat but out of these only 18.61 lakh were active.
The number of active workers in Gujarat is 31.52 lakh. Of these, 5.81 per cent belong to Scheduled Castes and 39.04 per cent belong to Scheduled Tribes. Details of how many days of employment is given in a year and how much daily wage is paid can be seen in the accompanying table.
These details show that
  1. As per the notification issued by the Central government on April 1, 2021, Rs 229 as wage has to be paid, but on an average, Rs 205 is paid. This is how it has been for years!
  2. Under Section-3 of the Act, the state government is required to provide employment for up to 100 days, but in Gujarat, employment is not provided for more than 50 days. Despite the corona epidemic, only 43 days of employment was provided in 2020- 21 followed by 49 days in 2021-22. Despite having 18.61 lakh active job cards, less than 35,000 were given 100 days of employment in the last five years.
  3. Increase in wages during the last five years has been to the tune of 15.82 per cent. That is, average increase in wages has been 3.16 per cent per year. Considering the rate of inflation for the last five years, the increase in wages ought to be five per cent per year. This shows that the real wages have declined.
  4. According to section-6(2) of the Act, the wages under MGNREGA must be equal to the minimum wage fixed for farm labour. At present the minimum wage of farm labour in Gujarat officially is Rs 324.20. But the official daily wage under MGNREGA is Rs 229.
Some of the practical problems with enforcement of the law are as follows:
  • Under MGNREGA, many workers are not paid on time even though it is legally mandatory to pay them within 15 days. For example, the information that we have collected suggests, as on March 14, arrears remained to be paid to 4,000 workers in Poshina taluka, 3,800 workers in Khedbrahma taluka, 3200 workers in Wadali taluka and 3,000 workers in Idar taluka. The same is true of Aravalli district. In many places wages are paid after two months.
  • Spots where work under MGNREGA is carried out, arrangements like drinking water, first aid, shade etc. are not made as per the guidelines under the law.
  • For jobs like deepening of lake, installing electricity poles, construction of roads etc. in forest areas, the officials of the forest department stop work. Because of this the tribals do not get employment under MGNREGA.
  • MGNREGA is a demand-based employment law. But when a worker goes to ask for work, the acknowledgment for the same by the panchayat is not given. As a result, there is no proof if the work is provided, hence no claim for unemployment benefits can be made.
  • Unemployment allowance is not given to those who are not given work if they apply for it.
  • Those in charge of implementing MGNREGA are not permanent employees of the government, they work on contract and are temporary. If they are made permanent, the implementation of the law can improve.
*Respectively: President, Eklvaya Sangathan; general secretary, MGNREGA Workers' Union; president, MGNREGA Workers’ Union



'Draconian' Kerala health law follows WHO diktat: Govt readies to take harsh measures

By Dr Maya Valecha*  The Governor of Kerala has signed the Kerala Public Health Bill, which essentially reverses the people’s campaign in healthcare services in Kerala for decentralisation. The campaign had led to relinquishing of state powers in 1996, resulting in improvement of health parameters in Kerala. Instead, now, enforcement of law through the exercise of power, fines, etc., and the implementation of protocol during the pandemic, are considered of prime importance.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Bihar rural women entrepreneurs witness 50% surge in awareness about renewal energy

By Mignonne Dsouza*  An endline survey conducted under the Bolega Bihar initiative revealed a significant increase in awareness of renewable energy among women, rising from 25% to 76% in Nalanda and Gaya. Renu Kumari, a 34-year-old entrepreneur from Nalanda, Bihar, operates a village eatery that serves as the primary source of income for her family, including her husband and five children. However, a significant portion of her profits was being directed toward covering monthly electricity expenses that usually reach Rs 2,000. 

Work with Rajasthan's camel herders: German scientist wins World Cookbook Award 2023

By Rosamma Thomas*  Gourmand World Cookbook Awards are the only awards for international food culture. This year, German scientist  Ilse Kohler Rollefson , founder of Camel Charisma, the first of India’s camel dairies, in Pali district of Rajasthan, won the award for her work with camel herders in Rajasthan, and for preparing for the UN International Year of Camelids, 2024. 

Reject WHO's 'draconian' amendments on pandemic: Citizens to Union Health Minister

By Our Representative  Several concerned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister to reject amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) in May 2022, apprehending this will make the signatories surrender their autonomy to the “unelected, unaccountable and the whimsical WHO in case of any future ‘pandemics’.”

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.

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.”

Why is electricity tariff going up in India? Who is the beneficiary? A random reflection

By Thomas Franco*  Union Ministry of Power has used its power under Section 11 of the Electricity Act, 2003 to force States to import coal which has led to an increase in the cost of electricity production and every consumer is paying a higher tariff. In India, almost everybody from farmers to MSMEs are consumers of electricity.

Deplorable, influential sections 'still believe' burning coal is essential indefinitely

By Shankar Sharma*  Some of the recent developments in the power sector, as some  recent news items show, should be of massive relevance/ interest to our policy makers in India. Assuming that our authorities are officially mandated/ committed to maintain a holistic approach to the overall welfare of all sections of our society, including the flora, fauna and general environment, these developments/ experiences from different parts of the globe should be clear pointers to the sustainable energy pathways for our people.

Environmental cost of Green Revolution: India world’s second-highest fertilizer importer

By Glenn Davis Stone*  Feeding a growing world population has been a serious concern for decades, but today there are new causes for alarm. Floods, heat waves and other weather extremes are making agriculture increasingly precarious, especially in the Global South .