Odisha Civil Society Demand Conversion of all Forest and Un-surveyed Villages into Revenue Villages

Bhubaneswar: In a Press Meet today at Red Cross Bhawan, organized by RCDC, Odisha Civil Society Organisations demanded early identification and conversion of all forest and un-surveyed villages of the State into revenue villages as per the provision under Forest Rights Act, 2006.
Addressing the media, Dr. Manohar Chauhan, member, Campaign for Survival and Dignity(CSD), Odisha shared that “besides individual and community rights recognized under the historic Forest Right Act, 2006, Section 3(1) (h) of FRA provides for the rights of settlement and conversion of all forest villages, old habitation, un-surveyed villages and other villages in forests, whether recorded, notified or not into revenue villages”. “However, after the 8 years of FRA implementation in the State, the Govt. of Odisha has failed to convert any of the forest or un-surveyed villages of the State. Sharing the status of forest and un-surveyed villages in the State, he said “Besides 587 forest or un-surveyed villages identified in 2001 census by the Govt. of Odisha including the 20 forest village under direct administration of State Forest Department, there are more than 1000 of such villages in different districts residing mostly in reserve forests of which the Govt. has no clear information and which are needs to be identified and converted into revenue villages,” he said.
Joining the Press Meet, Theophil Gomango, Convenor of the Odisha Indigenous People’s Forum (OIPF) informed that based on the power conferred under Section 12 of FRA, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India has issued guidelines as how to convert these forest and un-surveyed villages into revenue villages on 8th November 2013 and had shared with all the State Governments including Odisha. But it is unfortunate that Odisha Govt. has taken no step towards it. He also stressed on recognizing such villages as an independent villages which is also emphasized under Central PESA, 1996.
Golak Bihari Purti of village Asurkhal, one of the community leader of the four villages approved by Majurbhana FRA District Level Committee to be converted into revenue village shared the various issues and problems faced by them due to non-recognition of revenue status of his village. He said that they have been facing many problems in getting basic facilities like road and communication, education, health etc. He said that since they did not have individual land patta of their homestead land and cultivable land, they were deprived from caste and resident certificates leading to non-availability other social benefits i.e., PDS rice, India awash houses and even old age pension etc. Since they had no accessible road, no Govt. officials used to visit their village.
It is to be noted that in the whole country settlement of forest and un-surveyed villages into revenue village was badly affected after the passing of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980s which restricted the State government’s power over forest land. However, FRA 2006 created a scope for settlement of such villages and since the kisaam of the forest land recognized under FRA would be remain as forest land it exempted the provision of net present value (NPV) and revenue land to be compensated against forest land.
Before the press meet in the first half of the day civil society organizations working in the State discussed on the various issues related to conversion of forest un-surveyed villages in the different parts of the State. In that session, Prabhat Kumar Mishra, Amar Gauda and Anand Sethi of RCDC shared the various steps followed in the facilitation for four villages i.e., Jamubani, Boula, Jharjhari and Asrukhal un-surveyed villages falling in the Satkosia Amadanana Hill Block forest coming under Bhaliadal GP under Thakurmunda Block in Mayurbhanja district. These four villages inhabited within the Similipal Tiger Reserve/Biosphere and it is within the National Park area. The members of RCDC shared that in the whole process, district administration including the Sub-Collector, BDO, Tahasildar cooperated which led to construction of road in these villages. However, sharing the hurdle in the whole process, they said that, “in every step Forest Department was against of any kind of rights recognition since these villages comes within Tiger Reserve. Prabhat Mishra also informed that while the villagers are exited for the approval of their claims for conversion of revenue village at the DLC, at the same time they are worried as the Govt. of Odisha has decided to relocate 16 villages including these 4 villages from 6 sanctuaries in the State(published in the local newspaper Dharitri on 19th March 2017.
Reacting to the news published in the Dharitri, Manohar Chauhan said that it would not be so easy for the Govt. of Odisha to relocate the community people without their pre-prior informed consent. He vehemently criticized the Wildlife Department, Govt. of Odisha to have relocated the community people of villages Jamunagarh, Bakua and Kiajhari from Similipal Sanctuary without compensating their community forest rights recognized under FRA and demanded compensation of their community forest after due quantification of the value of Community Forest to each family.

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