Two days National Seminar on Community Forest Right Concludes in Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar: A two days national seminar on “Community Forest Rights-Gap between Policy and Practices” today concluded at Hotel Kalinga Ashok, Bhubaneswar. The National Seminar was organized by the SCST Research and Training Institute (SCSTRTI), Govt. of Odisha Bhubneswar.
On 19th the programme was inaugurated by the Chief Guest, Ramesh Chandra Majhi, Hon’ble Minister SCST Development Department. The whole programme was designed into different sessions in which detail deliberation were held on various component of community rights recognized under FRA, 2006.
The inaugural session was presided by Mr. R. Raghu Prasad, Director, SCST Development Department. Prof. A. B. Ota, Commissioner cum-Director, SCSTRTI gave welcome address and shared the objectives of the two days seminar. In his key note address he stated that Odisha has been pioneer in implementing the Forest Rights Act in the whole country. However, he also admitted that Odisha still lagging far behind in recognizing the community rights in comparison to other state like Maharshtra. He also said that all the IFR rights recognized in the State needs RoR correction urgently and all the rejected IFR claims are being reviewed.
In his key note address Mr. Ramesh Chandra Majhi emphasized on the recognition of individual forest rights of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers(OTFDs) who have been living along with the scheduled tribe in the area for generations in the State.
Mr. Hrusikesh Panda, Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI who chaired many sessions of the two days seminar shared his experience as MoTA Secretary and said that it is important for the officials involved in the implementation of such historic act to be attuned to the field level realities. He further said that when the district collectors have been made Chairman of the FRA District Level Committee, in many districts across the States they have failed to realize their power and so also failed to used it and mostly depended upon DFOs on the issue of recognizing community forest rights.
Pradip Prabhu, of Kastakari Sangathan, Maharashtra and Convenor of National Campaign for Survival and Dignity(NCSD) which was behind the enactment of the historic FRA, 2006 emphasized on the role of Gram Sabha. He said that under FRA, Gram Sabha has been recognized as the “Authority” which has been mostly over looked by govt. officials while implementing the act in the ground. Targeting the forest department, he said, “Despite FRA, the forest officials still belief that they are the owner of the “Forest” and this is why they have been the major hurdle in the way of the FRA implementation across the States. He emphasized on changing of other laws and mindset at govt. officials as per FRA. He call upon both the Central Govt. and State Governments to respect the FRA and recognize the community rights which will lead to conservation of forest and wildlife in a better way.
Binod Kumar Tiwari, Joint Secretary, MoTA joining as Guest of Honor in the seminar clarified many questioned raised in the seminar. He said MoTA has issued a number of positive circulars and clarifications on various issues and expect the State Governments to follow them, However, many State Governments are yet to initiate many rights recognized under the Act. Emphasizing on the conversion of forest and un-surveyed village across the States, he said “this is the most important provision in the FRA which needs to be priorities since many citizen of the country deprived of citizenship due to non-recognition of their village so also their identity.
N.C.Saxena, former Secretary, GoI described various forest laws and shared the status of recognition of forest rights in the country. He said that all the state Govts should scale up the recognition of forest rights which is now just 8 per cent of the total forest area. He also called the 27th March NTCA Order illegal and urged the Govt. to withdraw it. He also strongly argued that after FRA, Vana Sauraskhya Samiti(VSS) from in different villages by Forest Department should be dissolved automatically. Besides he emphasized livelihood enhancement after the recognition of forest rights. Talking on the investment in forest, he gave importance to increase the NTFP productivity so that the tribals and forest dwelling community can be more benefitted and would be interested to file more and more CFR claims.
Joining the Seminar in the second day, Odisha PCCF S.S. Srivastava shared the various steps taken by State Forest Department after the implementation of FRA in the State. He said that Forest Department is just part of the Govt. and it cannot violate the constitutional act of the State. He assured the participants of the seminar to cooperate in all respect to implement the FRA in its true spirit.
After the inaugural session and technical session, representative coming from different States shared the status of FRA implementation and various FRA implementation issues in their respective State. In the two days seminar many people presented the FRA issues which includes Miss Pranati Patro from SCST Dept.GoO, Tushar Dash, Programme Director, Vasundhara, Mahesh Raut from Maharashtra, B.R Parmer, Joint Secretary, Govt. of Gujarat, Truti Parekh, Arch Vahini, Gujrat,Mrs Padma, Special Commissioner, Tribal Welfare, Andhara Pradeah, Dr. Trinath Rao, Advocate A.P., Mr. R. Laxman, Commissioner, Tribal Welfare, Telengana,C.R. Bijoy, Independent Researcher, Tamilnadu, Brajesh Kumar Das, Advisor, tribal Welfare Department, Jharkhand,Father George Monippolly, Bharat Jan Andolan, Jharkhand, Devjit Nandi, Chhatisgarh, Kailash Chauhan, Research Officer, RTI, Govt. of HP, Subrat Ku Nayak, Project Officer, MoTA, Dr. Pankaj Joshi, BPUMS, Kutch, Gujrat, Mr. Amitav Bachan, Waynad, Kerla.
Taking up all the FRA implementation issues emerged from two days deliberation, in the last session a series of suggestions were put forth before MOTA and different State Government for the better and effective implementation of FRA.
At the end of the seminar, Trilochan Sahoo from GoO gave vote of thanks to all the guests and participants of the seminar.

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