regular-article-logo Wednesday, 04 October 2023

Govt to convert 79 forest villages in Darjeeling into revenue villages

The notification is the second major development following the administrative meeting chaired by chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Kurseong on October 26

Vivek Chhetri Darjeeling Published 11.11.21, 02:38 AM
Representational image.

Representational image.

The state government has issued a notification converting 79 forest villages in Darjeeling district into revenue villages, which means the forest dwellers’ decade-old demand for land rights has now become a reality.

The notification is the second major development for Darjeeling region following the administrative meeting chaired by chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Kurseong on October 26.


During the meeting, Anit Thapa, president, Bharatiya Gorkha Prajantantrik Morcha had raised the issue of granting land rights to forest villagers in Darjeeling district.

The state government issued a notification dated November 2, 2021, to remove the last remaining hurdle in granting rights to forest dwellers.

The other major development following the meeting was the decision to immediately run the Darjeeling Hills University which was due since 2018.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forests Rights) Act, 2006, which is popularly known as Forest Rights Act, envisages granting forest dwellers the right to land (including patta) and other forest resources.

Although the Bengal government had started the process of implementing the forest rights in the state in 2008, the same could not be started in Darjeeling hills because of the lack of a panchayat system. Forest villagers in districts like Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri were converted into revenue villages as early as in 2014.

The one-tier gram panchayat ceased to exist in the hills from 2005 onwards but the forest act had mandated panchayats with certain roles in the entire process. “The lack of panchayat system in the hills and lack of coordination with the government (between GTA and state government) were the main reasons behind the delay,” said Lila Kumar Gurung, secretary, Himalayan Forest Villagers Organisation (HFVO)

HFVO along with Uttar Banga Van-Jan Shramajivi Manch and All India Forum of Forest Movements had been demanding forest rights to these villagers since 1994.

In 2016, the Centre did mandate the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) to take up the role of the panchayat in the exercise following which the process was initiated for the Darjeeling hills.

“In Darjeeling district there are 98 forest villagers which means that 19 villagers have been left out from the latest notification. We are holding a meeting in Siliguri on Friday to take up issues of all the left-out forest villagers in north Bengal,” said Gurung.

Some forest villagers from other districts have also been left out from the revenue village list.

Vikram Rai, member of Darjeeling sub-divisional level committee on forest rights, which is one of the layers for scrutiny of application said lack of documentation was the only reason why some names and villages were left out.

“Lack of documentation is the main reason and we are confident that all genuine claimants can be included in the list,” said Rai.

It is estimated that nearly 1.5 lakh people reside in forest villages of Darjeeling hills.

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