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regular-article-logo Monday, 22 July 2024

Jharkhand CM Champai Soren warns bureaucrats against whimsical cancellation of forest rights claims

Jharkhand, which has 30 per cent forest area, is still lagging behind other tribal states in implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006

Animesh Bisoee Jamshedpur Published 25.06.24, 05:51 AM
Champai Soren addresses the workshop in Ranchi on Monday.

Champai Soren addresses the workshop in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Manob Chowdhury

Jharkhand chief minister Champai Soren on Monday warned bureaucrats against whimsical cancellation of forest rights claims of forest dwellers.

Jharkhand, which has 30 per cent forest area, is still lagging behind other tribal states in implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.

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Addressing a workshop on "empower communities-ensuring rights decoding FRA-2006-justice, conservation and challenges" in Ranchi as part of the Abua Bir Abua Dishom (our forest our country) campaign, Soren recalled the 1980 Gua massacre and said that the agitation for rights of forest dwellers had been continuing in the state for decades.

The Gua massacre took place on September 8, 1980 when forces of the Bihar Military Police killed around eight tribals in a hospital.

“I am telling you with all seriousness, the deputy commissioners and forest officials will have to answer for each cancellation of claims of forest deeds. Serious action would be taken against them if they are found cancelling claims whimsically without proper reasons. It is a serious issue that we are lagging behind in the execution of the act even after 18 years,” a visibly angry Soren said.

The workshop was attended by deputy commissioners, divisional forest officers (DFOs), senior forest department and welfare department officials.

“We have started a campaign of giving rights to forest dwellers which is enshrined in the FRA and it has to be successful. Do not take this campaign lightly. The step-motherly treatment against forest dwellers, mostly tribals and poor, has to stop right now. The officials should see that gram sabha decisions are treated with respect,” said Soren.

He also emphasised on simplifying the process of granting forest rights so that everyone can be successful in getting forest deeds in one and a half months.

Former chief minister Hemant Soren (currently under judicial custody in Ranchi) had launched the Abua Bir Abua Dishom campaign in November last year and expressed surprise at the sluggish implementation of the act in a tribal state.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (commonly referred to as the Forest Rights Act) provides for the recognition of the right to “protect, regenerate or conserve or manage” the community forest resource.

These rights allow the community to formulate rules for forest use and discharge its responsibilities under Section 5 of the Forest Rights Act.

To support the FRA's implementation, a dedicated FRA cell was constituted under the state welfare department last year. The FRA cell and a few civil society organisations have organised training and capacity building of welfare, forest and revenue department officials, reconstituted district level committees, sub-divisional level committees and forest right committees (xat panchayat level). A dedicated mobile application (JharFRA) and website on forest rights have also been launched to streamline the FRA implementation process.

According to data sourced from the state government, out of 31,023 villages across 24 districts, 12,246 (39 per cent) are potential candidates for community forest rights (CFR) and community forest resource rights (CFFR). As of May 31, only 30 per cent have claimed their rights. Of these, 44 per cent of claims are pending at the sub-division and district level. Alarmingly, only 84 per cent of the potential villages have yet to claim their CFR.

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