Dalit Adhikar Sangathan Counters Odisha CM for the plights of OTFDs of the State

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Bhubaneswar: Dalit Adhikar Sangathan, Odisha affiliated to Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD) in a press meet today at Red Cross Bhawan slams Navin Patanaik for his recent statement on the status of recognition of Individual forest rights(IFR) of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers(OTFDs) in the State. The Sangathan is of the view that “while the concern Gram Sabha is the real authority under FRA, 2006 to certify the 3 generations of OTFD claimants and accordingly many gram sabhas have approved IFR claims of OTFDs in many districts and have recommended for IFR titles, it is the State’s bureaucrats at the SDLC and DLC who have arbitrarily rejected most of the claims of the OTFDs in the State.” The Sangathan has also raised serious concerns over non demarcation of the forest land recognized under FRA.
Gadadhar Pradhan who coordinated the Press meet informed the media that due to lack of clear understanding on the FRA, 2006 at the community level and dominating nature of bureaucrats at the SDLCs and DLCs, most of the IFR claims of OTFDs have been shown rejected by gram sabha and SDLC level.
Pradeep Sahu, senior Member of CSD joining the press meet said “the Govt. of Odisha is trying to misguide the OTFDs of the State by urging the Central Govt. to bring amendment in the FRA,2006 itself. Questioning the statement made by Navin Patnaik, he said “as per the FRA SLMC report by 30th April 2017, 1042 IFR claims of OTFDs have been approved at the DLC levels and 628 OTFDs have issued IFR titles including 555 in Sundargarh 15 in Angul, 11 in Rayagarda and 47 in Malkangiri districts. Thus if OTFDs of these districts are eligible under FRA, 2006 how OTFDs living in other areas/districts are ineligible? Putting forth CSD argument he said that “leaving some of the displaced villages due to irrigation and mining projects of Govt., most of the villages in the State are inhabited before two to three hundred years and all OTFDs living occupying forest land in such villages are eligible for IFR titles under FRA.
It is to be noted that on 12th June Navin Patnaik has urged the Central Govt. to relax the 3 generations criteria for OTFDs of the State. In its letter sent to the Jual Oraom, the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Govt. Of India, Navin Patnaik had written that “According to the existing provisions under the Act, while the ST people are eligible for availing the rights (of land) if they have resided in the forest prior to December 13, 2005, the OTFDs should have inhabited the forests for over three generations or 75 years,” “The reason for such abysmally low number of titles being issued to other TFDs is primarily on account of the heavy burden of proof cast upon the claimants to provide evidence of their occupation in the forest lands from the year 1930,” Patnaik had written. In response to it Jual Oram had slammed Navin alleging non-serious in implementing the FRA in the State.
Manohar Chauhan, another member of the CSD in the Press Meet criticized the State bureaucrats and made them responsible for the low recognition of IFR rights to the OTFDs in the State. He shared that the Govt. officials at the SDLCs and DLCs have failed to communicate the real provisions of the FRA, 2006 (the 13th Dec 2015 is apply to both STs and OTFDs and in case of OTFDs they have/their generations have to reside in that area for three generations) at the community level and have mostly emphasized on the documentary evidence leaving other evidence given in Section 13 of the FRA like genealogical tracing, written evidence of elders and geographical attributes of the occupied forest land etc. “In many districts, like Kandhamal, Ganjam, Gajapati, Kalahandi, Mayurbhanja, Keuonjhar, Baleswar, Cuttack, Bhadrak, Baudh, Jajpur, Jharsuguda, Dhenkanal, Jagatsingpur, etc. OTFDs were even not allowed to file their IFR claims at the Gram Sabha”. He alleged. He informed that as per the CSD estimation at least 10 lakh tribal and OTFDs are eligible to get IFR titles in the State. He also informed the media that taking all these issues CSD Odisha is going to protest against Govt. of Odisha on next 28th June at Lower PMG in the State Capital.
Community people ( Hadu Jena, Krushna Jena, Mrs. Susama Jena and Mrs. Sabitrai Jena) , all Kandha Tribal coming from Dahanipalii Hamlet of Talasar revenue village in Golia G.P of Buguda block of Ganjam District in the Press Meet alleged illegal plantation over their cultivable land by Forest Department. Talking to media people, they said that while around 30 tribal families have been cultivating over 100 acres of revenue forest land for generations and have claimed under FRA, the forest Department have forcibly done plantation over 5 acres of their cultivable forestland. They have petitioned before the FRA SDLC but no step has been yet taken as a result they had to come to the State Capital to share their plight.
Talking on the plantation issue, Sandeep Patnaik of NCAS said “there is plantation pressure on the Forest Department which is reflecting in the grounds and more and more such forcible plantations would be there when CAMPA fund will channelized to the Forest Department in coming days.
Dr. Sricharan Behera, member CSD shared on the poor CFR recognition status in the State and said that while many gram sabha have submitted CFR claims at the SDLC level but most of them are not shown in the SLMC report. He alleged serious discrepancy in the number CFR titles (5891) shown to have issued in the State. He further clarified on the legal difference between the VSS and Gram Sabha over forest protection and management after FRA, 2006.
Chita Behera, Senior independent Activist shared on the contradictory provisions of CAMPA Fund Act passed by the Parliament in 2016. “While FRA talks of Gram Sabha’s power and control over community forest resources(CFR), CAMPA Fund Act on the hand empowers the Forest Department to invest the money gathered from forest destruction mostly by corporate sector . He appeal the Govt. to bring necessary changes/ amendments in the CAMPA Fund Act in the line of FRA empowering Gram Sabha so that whatever activities will be done in forest area, it will be done with the consent of the Gram Sabha.
It is to be noted that as per the FRA SLMC, Govt. of Odisha report by 30th April 2017, 6,14, 654 IFR claims(5,82,142of STs and 32,223 of OTFDs) have been filed and 4,05897 IFR titles( 4,052689 to STs and 628 to OTFDs) have been issued over 607977 acres of forest land(6,06777 to STs and 1200 acres to OTFDs in the State. The same report reflects that 1,49,150 IFR claims (1,23,834 of STs and 25,316 of OTFDs have been rejected at different levels.

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