MUMBAI: Over 1,500 tribal farmers from neighbouring Palghar district, who had used RTI effectively to establish their forest rights about three years ago, resorted to a novel agitation called ‘Queue Satyagraha’ on Monday.
“We had resorted to am agitation in 2013 when we realised that we had received land titles under Forest Rights act (FRA) of a much lesser area than what we actually hold. The act makes it mandatory for the administration to re-measure the allotted land within 60 days. We waited for three years in hope that the administration would wake up to the 60 day’s limit some day, but in vein,” said Prakash Baraf, secretary of Vayam, a voluntary movement for strengthening democracy at roots.
“Government keeps forgetting its duties and the laws. Even if reminded once or twice, the government still does not deliver its promises. We have therefore queued up in a big line to remind the government thousand times. The participants in the ‘Queue Satyagraha’ filed FRA appeals that mentioned FRA provisions, Public Services Act, as well as the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Depriving tribals from their forest rights is considered an offence under the Atrocities Act,” Baraf said.
Many of the tribal farmers who participated in Monday’s Queue Satyagraha had participated in RTI Satyagraha organised by Vayam in April 2013. RTI applications filed by these people had exposed that the Government had mishandled the FRA applications. The Forest department had given less-land-area recommendations without field verification.
The SDLC and DLC committees had blindly accepted the forest department recommendation without even informing the applicant. The RTI Satyagraha exposed this and the state CIC ordered all information about FRA to be disclosed on the Collector’s website. The tribal citizens filed FRA appeals with the evidence obtained from RTI in fall of 2013. Yet after three years, the government is yet to deliver its promise of re-measurement of land area that is held by these tribal farmers for bear survival.