Bandi Oraon (left) and BD Sharma during the agitation in Ranchi on Tuesday. (Prashant Mitra)
Around 200 tribals from across Jharkhand staged a demonstration near Raj Bhavan on Tuesday, demanding better implementation of The Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006, in the state.
Led by social activists like former IAS B.D. Sharma and former IPS Bandi Oraon, the aggrieved villagers sought governor Syed Ahmed’s intervention to safeguard the interests of the poor.
They alleged that the state machinery had been denying them the rights to forest land and other resources guaranteed under the act.
“I have applied for patta for over an acre of forest land that I have been tilling for decades now. But, even after running from pillar to post for the last two years or so, I am yet to get the land document,” said Chandradeo Singh, who had come from Barwadih village in Latehar district to participate in the agitation.
The forest rights act was enacted in 2006 in order to “correct the historic injustice against the tribals”. The act has been implemented in all states, including Jharkhand where tribals make up a huge segment of the population.
According to the legislation, gram sabhas have to nominate genuine beneficiaries and send lists to subdivisional offices, which will, in turn, verify applications and forward them to the district administrations for final approval.
“The beneficiaries are unnecessarily harassed by the officials. If the government has made a promise through law, it should fulfil it,” said Sharma.
It is a general complaint of the beneficiaries that their applications are rejected by government officials at the subdivision and district-level.
“The rejection rate is much higher than the rate of approval in the state, which is peculiar to Jharkhand,” he added.
Notably, even Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, a frequent visitor to Jharkhand, has been raising the issue of poor implementation of the forest rights act.
On August 9 during the celebrations of International Indigenous People’s Day at Birsa Munda Football Stadium, Morabadi, Ramesh had urged chief minister Hemant Soren to take the act seriously.
“While neighbouring states like Odisha and Chhattisgarh had distributed pattas to over three lakh and two lakh households, respectively, Jharkhand has fulfilled the demands of only around 40,000 beneficiaries, despite huge presence of tribal and forest dwellers here,” the Union minister had pointed out.