Forest dwellers for more rights

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  • Published 4.11.07

Ranchi, Nov. 4: This time they came enlightened about their rights over forests and what specifically they wanted from the government.

Hundreds of tribals and original settlers, who are traditional forest dwellers, today thronged the Morabadi ground in colourful attire to take part in a general meeting organised by Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement (Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan).

“Earlier, we were not aware of our forest rights bestowed by the government in a law enacted in 2006. But now we know that we could execute agrarian activities in specified hectares of the forest, can collect non-timber forest items and manage the things related to forests,” said Shyam Singh Bodra of West Singhbhum.

Despite the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (reorganisation of forest right) Act, 2006, passed by the cabinet, the rules to implement the same are yet to be finalised, Sanjoy Basu Mallick, a social activist, revealed.

“MoEF (Union ministry of environment and forests), the state forest department and so called animal lovers are posing threat to forest dwellers rights. The authorities are trying to dilute the act and implement the same in a distorted way. We would oppose any such move,” said Mallick. Starting tomorrow, the forest activists would hold a two-day annual conference on the issue at Gossner Theological Hall.

Activists of three foreign NGOs — Friends of The Earth, Simempu and International Group for Indigenous Affairs and Bangalore-based Equations — would exhibit a model on “Impact of developmental activities on indigenous people” during the conference. Mallick said that as per the 2006 act, government promises a scheduled tribe and any other traditional forest dweller’s family to bestow a land patta of a maximum of four hectares forest area for agrarian activities.

Moreover, such forest dwellers can freely collect and sell non-timber forest produce wherever they want.