Setback to Forest Department: Satbohani Gram Sabha too dissolved its VSS using FRA

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Titlagarh: Giving another blow to the Bolangir DFO, Satbohani Gram Sabha in Titlagarh Block in Bolangir district dissolved its Vana Surakhya Samitte(VSS) on 25th July 2016 formed by Forest Department in 1990s. The village Satbohani is a small village having 77 households and 297 population including 47 SCs and 33 STs and rest are OBC(Gauda only) as per Census 2011. There are around 200 voters in the village. The villages comes under Ward No.2 of the Mahulapada G.P. which includes the neighbouring village Kutarakand.
 The unanimous decision was taken in a special Gram Sabha organised in the villages using section 6 of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The historic Gram sabha meeting was held at 11.40 am under the Tentuli(Tamarind) Mandap and was presided over by the senior most member of the Gram Sabha Sri Hajari Nag (aged about 90 years). Around 160 gram sabha members including VSS president, Rameswar Nag, Forest Rights Committee(FRC) President Ganesh Pradhani, FRC Secretary Samanta Nag, Ward Member(Ward No.2 of Mahulpada G.P), Smt.Sujata Deep etc. were present in the Gram Sabhaand signed over the Gram Sabha resolution.
After the dismissal of the VSS, the Satbohani Gram sabha also have formed a 15 members Forest Protection and managementCommittee(FP&MC) as per Section 31(i) and Section of FRA, 2006 and Section 4(1)(e) of Forest Rights Rules, 2007 in the same Gram Sabha.  In the FP&MC, they have re-elected all the 10 FRC members as members of FP&MC and also have elected five more new members including theprevious VSS president(Rameswar Nag) with due representations of the four hamlets and three communities i.eGauda, ST(kandha) and SC etc. Like Gulmi Gram Sabha, the Satbani Gram Sabha has also sent the copy of its  Resolution (dissolving VSS and formation ofFP&MC) to the concern district and State level government official i.e. Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha, Secretary, SC &ST Welfare Dept. and Forest and Environment, Govt. of Odisha marking a copy to the Chairman, FRA District Level Committee(DLC), FRA Sub-Divisional level Committee(SDLC), BolangirDFO, Forest Ranger, Titlagarh etc. for their necessary information and action.
CFR Area
As per the Record of Rights(RoR), there are in total 50.16 acres of community land(recorded as government land)including 16.75 acres of forest land in the revenue village Satbohani. However, the village is surrounded by Tikhari Reserve forest from its three sides(East, North and South. The Community Forest Resources (CFR) area would be approximately 700 acres over which they have claimed filing “B” and “C” form at Titlagarh Sub-Division.  Besides, around 28 Individual forest rights claims have been filed in the village and only 3 STs have got IFR titles over 8.62 acres inTikharireserve forest.
The senior most member of the Satbohani Gram Sabha, Sri Hajari Nag presiding over the special Gram sabha meeting said, “Burla Nag, father of my grandfather had come to this place from TikaraparaVillage(near Titlagarh) before 150 years and first settled and had named the village. Criticising the wayPaliiSabha under Gram Panchayat Act organised he said “Today I am feeling honoured by presiding in the Gram Sabha meeting”.
Sharing his past experience as Satbohani VSS for last 25 years, Rameswar Nag says, “The Forest Department people offered us Utensils and succeeded in forming VSS in our village. But latter on they evicted us from our occupied forest land and did teak plantation. They just took my signatures whenever they required but never give us the VSS register, bank Passbook and never shared with us the money they brought for our forest”
The Young FRC Secretary, Samanta Nag was very much excited over the dissolution of the VSS and looks forward to protect and manage the forest as per FRA in coming days.
BinodBihariBhoi, the local leaders of Titlagarh Forest Protection and Management Coordination Committee (CFRP&MCC) affiliated to CSD said, “The 1st dissolution of VSS by our Gumli Gram Sabha on last 10th July has good impacts in neighbouring villages and it has also challenged the Forest Department hegemony of last so many years.” “We are looking forward to see more and more Gram Sabhas dissolve their VSS and physically take over forest under their control across the State and teach a lesson to the FD.” He further said.
RupdharBisoi, another leader ofCFRP&MCC said “Over the period, the Forest Department has us taking the advantage of our simplicity and ignorance of our rights in one hand and using the colonial forest laws on the other. Now we have understood this after FRA, 2006 and using the Act as weapon to getback the forest under our control”. He further called upon all NGOs working on FRA across the State to facilitate more and more Gram Sabbha to take resolution dissolving VSS.
ManoharChauhan, Member, CSD, Odisha congratulated the Satbohani Gram Sabhafor dissolving their VSS using FRA, 2006. Reacting to the comments of Bolangir DFO RashmiRanjanNayak who had said to media that Gram Sabha have no power to dissolve VSS and  they cannot dissolve VSS without our(FD) permission, he said “The news of dissolution of VSS by Gulmi Gram Sabha has baffled the DFO, Bolangir.  The DFO should have read the FRA, 2006 carefully and if he had still doubt over it, he should have consulted his higher officials at the State and Centre before his unconstitutional comments”.

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