Finally Odisha Forest Department(KL) succumbed to the pressure of Six Gram Sabhas: CSD

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Chapter of Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD), the campaign which mobilized the tribals and forest dwellers across the country for the enactment of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in a press release today congratulated the community people of the six gram sabhas of Kalahandi district for compelling the Odisha Forest Department(KL) to issue special circular allowing them to sell kendu leaf(KL) to anyone whom they want as per the historic forest rights act, 2006.
It is to be noted that in the last kendu leaf season in May,2017 six gram sabhas i.e., Khainsuguda, Jamugudabahal, Jamjharan, Kasturpadar, Kanakpur, and Kalipur of Golamunda block in Kalahandi district coming under Bhawanipatna KL Division gathered kendu leaves and decided to take up KL business in their hands exercising ownership rights recognized under Section 3(1) (c) of forest rights act, 2006. They had also done a businessman agreement with the Maharashtra merchant and committed to supply 72,000 bundle of KL @ Rs.7.50 per bundle(6o leaves) against Rs.2.40 paid by Govt. of Odisha. Accordingly, the Merchant had also paid Rs.3,64,000 as advance of Rs,5,40,000 to the villagers. However, after knowing the development, the local KL Department officials obstructed them and threatened the KL businessman. Since then the community people of the six villages struggling like anything to sell their kendu leaves and get justice.
“They filed petitions before the District Collector, Forest Department Govt. of Odisha, FRA State Level Monitoring Committee(SLMC) and approached Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India. As a result, Jual Oram, Minister of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India on 3rd July wrote Naveen Patnaik, the CM of Odisha to address the issue of the six gram sabhas. Even SCST Development Department, Govt. of Odisha on 22nd July reminded the Forest Department that the FD has violated the FRA, 2006 by obstructing gram sabhas and asked it to allow them to do KL business independently. The leaders of the six gram sabhas also met and appraised their plight to Ramesh Chandra Majhi, the new Odisha SCST Development Minister, Govt.of Odisha who also failed to resolve the issue. In between the FD continue to threaten the community people, activists and civil society organization involved in the process.” CSD alleged.
“From last May 2017, the members of the six grama sabhas consistently demanded Odisha Govt. to recognize their ownership rights over KL. They also joined in the CSD, Odisha protest rally held in Bhubneswar on 28th June 2017. On 13th August 2017, the National CSD also wrote a letter to Naveen Patnaik urging him to allow the six gram sabhas to exercise their ownership rights over KL. However, the Govt. of Odisha remained silent on the issue.” “This shows the lack political willingness and dominance of forest bureaucracy being run in the State of Odisha” CSD claimed.
Questioning the delayed permission issued by Forest Department to six gram sabhas of Kalahandi district and to village Narigaon of Nabarangpur district in 2013, CSD said, “it is quite evident that in both the cases Forest Department fearing losing “Jamindari” over KL business, intentionally wanted to futile their business attempts and to prove that the gram sabhas are inefficient in doing KL business.” “Since the Forest Department(KL) is responsible for the damage of the kendu leaves of the six gram sabhas of Kalahandi district, we demand Govt. of Odisha should immediately pay Rs.5,40,000 excluding all expenditures incurred towards storage and maintenance of kl to the six gram sabhas” CSD asserted.
Targeting anti-tribal attitude of the Govt. of Odisha, CSD alleged that “While Govt. of Maharashtra allowed near to 1000 of villages in Gadchiroli, Gondia and Amarawati districts to exercise ownership rights over kendu leaves allowing them to do direct KL business and benefiting more than trice of the amount what they used to get from the Forest Department, the Govt. of Odisha wants to continue its feudal system in the State through KL Corporation.”
Raising serious concern over the 17th Nov notification issued by Forest Department allowing six gram sabhas to do KL business, CSD opined, “This notification is not clear whether the six gram sabhas can sell their kendu leaves stored in their houses collected in May, 2017 as Paragraph-7 of the notification talks of the year 2018, It is restricted to six gram sabhas only rather it should have been for all gram sabhas of the State whoever want to take up KL business in their hands, Even the notification wants to restrict the KL collection area involving Forest Range Officer in enumeration of the KL to be collected and sold”. CSD has demanded immediate revision of the notification.
“While Bhawanipatna Kendu Leaf DFO, Biswanath says that the six gram sabhas cannot sell their kl stored in the houses as per the 17th Nov notification, Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, the Principal Secretary, Forest & Environment Department, Govt. of Odisha says that they can now sell their KL stored in their houses based on the 17th Nov notification when we talk to them over phone” CSD said.
Thanking the six gram sabhas of the Kalahandi district for initiating the struggle towards ensuring ownership rights over kendu leaf, Gopinath Majhi, Convener of CSD, Odisha said “this is just the beginning and we are now more confident that more and more villages will be taking up KL business in their hands challenging the feudal system and demanding all profits from KL business”.
CSD has once again reiterated its demand before the Govt. of Odisha that wherever Gram sabha are ready to take up KL business in their hands, they should be allowed and wherever Govt.’s system continue (to collect KL from the KL pluckers and selling it to the private companies) Govt. should share all profits earned from KL business directly to the KL pluckers.

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