Tribune News Service
Dehradun, December 27
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has asked the state government to improve its coverage of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, to transfer land title to forest dwellers and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities by May 2016.
The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has been slowing down development works, there is absence of rights over forest lands to forest dwellers and non-fulfillment of their traditional rights over forest produce (non-timber).
According to one estimate, there are around 7,500 gram sabhas whose inhabitants cannot exercise their traditional rights on minor forest produce (MFP) and community rights.
However, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has agreed to extend the deadline for transfers from December 2015 to May 2016. The Uttarakhand Government has nominated the Department of Social Welfare as the implementing agency, who in turn, with the help of district magistrates, will complete the process.
So far in the state, only people of Kunnao (Yamkeshwar block) village, falling in Rajaji National Park, have been able to get their rights under the FRA.
“The Act is anchored in the Department of Social Welfare. We have to first make the villagers aware of the FRA so that they make appeals to village level committees and before the district magistrates,” said Manoj Chandaran, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare.
The process will involve a number of steps, including presenting of evidence before the committees, including oral evidence, about ownership of the forest land, communication of reason for rejection, exhaustion of appeals, evidences, creation of records with clear demarcation of forest land boundaries.
The implementation of the Act will also test the government’s resolve to force the Department of Forests to yield and give rights over minor forest produce to the forest dwellers, through the sale of which the department has been earning a hefty revenue.
Besides rights over MFP, the community rights include right to pasture, water bodies and diversion of one hectare of land (forest) for community infrastructure like schools etc.
It would also mean the total forest area will undergo a change and may reduce in the coming years, unless of course conservation measures are adopted.
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