CSD Questions over use of the word “Beneficiary” instead of “Forest Rights Holder”

Bhubaneswar: State Chapter Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD), the national level forum of tribals and forest dwellers which struggled for the enactment of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the country today in a prèss release raised serious concern over the use of the word “Beneficiary” instead of “Forest Rights Holder” by SC ST Development, Minority and Backward Classes Welfare Department, Govt. of Odisha in its website.

Questioning the word “Beneficiary” used by SCST Department while uploading the village and district wise list of Individual Forest Rights title holders in http://stscodisha.gov.in/TraditionalForesrDwellers.asp?GL=acts&PL=3/http://stscodisha.gov.in/DistrictwiseList.asp, CSD asserted that “we are seriously hurt with this attitude of the Govt. Officials/SCST Department which has been the nodal department for the FRA implementation in the State since 2008. FRA is not like other anti-poverty schemes and programmes and by using the ward “Beneficiary”, the Govt. Officials are not only disrespected the “Forest Rights Holders” but also undermining the forest rights recognized under the FRA.

CSD is of the view that FRA, 2006 is a historic enactment passed by the Indian Parliament is the result of consistent struggles of the tribal and forest dweller from the British period. In the preamble of the Act, Govt. admitted to have done injustice with the forest dwelling tribals and other forest dwellers in pre and post-independence period and FRA said to have enacted to undo that historical injustice done over the period. The preamble reads that “the forest rights on ancestral lands and their habitat were not adequately recognized in the consolidation of State forests during the colonial period as well as in independent India resulting in historical injustice to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who are integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest ecosystem”

“We believe that by considering and mentioning the rights holder as “beneficiary’ Govt. of Odisha is trying to repeat the injustice done with the forest dwellers and FRA which recognizes the pre-existing rights of the tribal and OTFDs and by recognizing these rights, Govt. of Odisha is not doing any charity.” CSD claimed.

Reminding the Govt. of Odisha, CSD said that “while in the claim form-A for claiming Individual forest Right given in the Annexure-I the ward “claimant” has been mentioned and the “Name(s) of holder(s) of forest rights” has been mentioned in the IFR title format in annexure-II. Besides, Section 6 of the FRA recognizes the Gram Sabha as the Authority of the village and village common resources including community Forest resources CFR.”

Writing Chief Secretary, Govt. of Odisha who is also the Chairman of the FRA State level Monitoring Committee(SLMC) CSD called it as a gross violation of FRA by the SCST Department and has requested him to immediately correct the mistake. “Otherwise we will be bound to take next course of action against it and will write to the NHRC, NCST and State HC etc.” CSD mentioned in its letter sent.

CSD has also drawn attention of the Chief Secretary to look into the comments/orders made by CAG, Govt. of India and Odisha State Food Commission (OSFC) after review of FRA implementation in the State and has urged is office to expedite the of community rights recognition process, to review all rejected claims including claims of OTFDs, to demarcate whatever IFR titles said to have recognized under the Act till date and to do RoR correction in the State.

Also CSD has requested CS to upload village wise details of the IFR and CFR titles in the SCST Dept. website inclining No. of claims filed and titles issued with the area recognized in all district including Sundargrah and Kandhamal which has been left out.

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